It wasn’t until I was in the middle of eating a grilled cheese sandwich when I remembered that Adam was supposed to meet his “friend” tonight. But clearly he wasn’t, since he’d spent the past hour helping me take care of Meiyu while I made dinner. “It’s after seven,” I exclaimed.
He looked up from his bowl of soup, where he was busily fishing out pasta, from the looks of it, three at a time. “So? Should we check in on Meiyu again? She already downed a bowl of soup and a sandwich, so I’m guessing she’s feeling just fine. Plus, she’s happily playing that new Gables video game, Pony Princess to the Rescue.” He looked at me sheepishly. “I mean, I know your parents said she’s not supposed to, but I felt sorry for her. She was sick, after all.”
I sighed, rolling my eyes. Meiyu wasn’t allowed to play games unless it was the weekend. She was seriously taking advantage of both Adam’s and my leniency. “No, it’s not that. I just thought you were supposed to meet—“ I broke off abruptly, realizing my mistake. I wasn’t supposed to tell him I’d overheard more of his conversation than I’d led on.
His eyes peered at me, shrewd and all too knowing. “Meet—”
Adam put his soup spoon down and gazed at me with a grim expression. Great, I knew he’d figured out what I’d been about to say.
“You overheard me tell my friend I was going to meet him for dinner.” Then that frown reversed itself into an amused laugh. “You’re a sneaky one. Now I know I’ve gotta be extra careful around you. Not that it’s your business, but we rescheduled.” He took up his spoon again and started seeking out pasta noodles again.
Great, now I’d never figure out when he was going to meet his friend. It had been my only lead on finding out his big secret.
“Oh come on,” I said, exasperated. “Why can’t you just tell me who you really are?”
“Because that would take away the fun out of it.
“I promise I won’t tell my parents.” I couldn’t believe I was resorting to begging.
He just kept playing with his soup. “I can’t believe you don’t have enough confidence to figure it out on your own.”
“Who says I don’t have confidence?” I cried, outraged. “But at least give me another clue. Unless you’re really a superhero who can’t reveal his identity, in which case I’ll understand.”
He finally stopped fiddling with his soup and looked at me. His hazel eyes were filled with mirth. “Do you see me wearing a cape and a mask?”
“Julie has a theory that you’re really rich.” I watched him closely to see his reaction, but he was unreadable.
“You really want to know that badly.” He sighed, moving away the rest of his dinner. “Fine, I’ll tell you why I’m here.”
Finally. He was about to unveil his secret. My heart pounded furiously.
“I lied about my parents acquiring a lot of debt, but I didn’t lie when I said they’re dead.” A brief regretful look came upon his face, and just as quickly, it was gone.
“I left home to do a project. There’s a photography contest, and I wanted to do my subject on ordinary people who live in town. I decided to live closer to my subjects for one year in order to better understand them, and in the process also prove to my family and myself that I can survive on my own.” He gave a fainthearted smile. “My grandfather and my aunt—they’re the ones who raised me—don’t exactly approve of my interest in photography.”
He shrugged helplessly. “They want me to take over the family business.”
The crux of what he just said hit me. If his family had a business, they had to be rich. “What kind of business?”
“We’re into…entertainment,” he said, after a faint pause. “People come to us for birthdays or holiday celebrations or even days they want to have fun without any reason.”
“So party planners.” He made the term sound so complicated. “Why did you pretend to be a hobo?”
He tossed me a sheepish smile. “I didn’t exactly pretend. Your family assumed.”
“You never corrected us,” I shot back.
“True.” He nodded. “Well, the day your parents found me, I’d really just fainted from exhaustion. Things had gone all wrong. I’d been fired from six jobs already, and the landlady kicked me out because I couldn’t pay rent. So in a way, your parents were right in thinking I was homeless. When they said I could stay here, I took the opportunity because I didn’t want to admit defeat.”
I regarded him closely, trying to assess whether he was really telling the truth this time. His eyes were clear and confident, and my heart told me he wasn’t lying. Although I wasn’t the best at detecting liars, as proved by Ange.
“Why did you enroll in my high school? Are you even still a high school student?”
He grinned, wearing a totally shameless expression. “Just graduated last year. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend more time with my beautiful hostess.”
Heat crawled into my skin, as my cheeks betrayed me with a blush. I tried to mask it with a scowl. “And who was the guy you were supposed to meet tonight? Christopher something?”
“My cousin. He’s the only one who knows what I’m doing. My grandfather and aunt think I’m staying with my godparents. They let me take the year off instead of going to college because of…personal reasons.” Adam looked a little uncomfortable saying this.
I eyed him suspiciously. “What personal reasons?”
“I guess you can say they hope I’ll change some of my habits. Like my love for photography. If they find out I’m entering a photography contest, I’d be in deep trouble.”
I nodded slowly, finally believing he was telling the truth this time around. He couldn’t be making up so many details in the blink of an eye.
Adam’s expression straightened, as he considered me seriously. “So the question is can I trust you to keep my secret? I don’t want your family to know.”
“Why not? They like you too much to kick you out.” That was an understatement. My parents loved Adam, probably more than any stray they’d taken in. They sometimes treated him even better than they treated me, filling his dinner plate until it was overflowing and giving him an extra fan in his room because it was so humid. And my sister climbed all over him. She was only six, but I swore she had formed a crush on him.
“Because if you haven’t noticed, your parents live by the rules. If they knew I lied to my grandfather and aunt—”
“They wouldn’t force you to go home,” I said.
“No, but they sure would try and talk me into it every day. Eventually, I’ll have to tell Gramps, but right now, I really want to focus on this contest.”
He was right. My parents would make their opinions known. Being at the end of that, I knew how annoying it could be. And plus, I felt obligated to keep Adam’s secret after today. He’d saved me from what could have been a horrible asthma attack. “All right,” I sighed, “I’ll keep your secret.” Then out of curiosity, I asked, “So are you rich?”
He barked out a loud laugh. “Now that you know I’m not a bum, I guess I’m looking more tempting as a boyfriend, right?”
“Not even in your dreams,” I retorted, even while feeling my cheeks heat up. “I was just wondering.”
“My family’s not poor. We’re not exactly rich either.” He caught a hold of his shirt and tugged slightly. It seemed he had something to add to that. “Let’s just say Gramps is rich enough to make sure we all look classy.”
There was something else I’d been dying to know. “Is your name really Adam Garvey?”
Adam regarded me for a moment, and he let out a chuckle, low in his throat. “A man must keep some mysteries to himself.”
“Oh come on,” I exclaimed in frustration.
“Adam is, Garvey may or may not be. But there’s no way I’m telling you for sure.” He shook his head fanatically. “Not if it keeps you interested in me.” He smirked in that oh-too-confident way of his. “You want to know, you find out yourself. Unless you don’t have enough confidence in your own abilities.”
Infuriating boy. He knew I would never back down from a challenge. “Fine.” I decided to push it a little further. It didn’t hurt to try. “So your cousin’s name is Christopher…” I trailed off, hoping he’d absentmindedly give away the last name.
“Yes, it’s Christopher,” he said with another knowing smile. “I call him Toph. But even if I told you his last name, you wouldn’t know mine since he’s related to me on his mom’s side.”
I wanted to stomp my feet in frustration. There were about a million Christophers out there, and just as many Adams. He’d given me nothing to work with. Meanwhile, he calmly stood up, starting to gather the dirty dishes. “While you mull over that, I’ll do the dishes,” he said. “And by the way, you look even prettier when you’re thinking hard. I like a girl with brains.”
Flashing him another angry glare, I stormed out before he could throw out another cheesy pick-up line.