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was buried today.
I was standing in the back of the church. There was a special word for it, but we rarely went so I didn’t know. I didn’t care either. It was where I stood. People came and said their goodbyes. Angie and Marissa had sat beside me. They were good friends. I suppose. Angie’s family came to the funeral. Her mom hugged me, patted me on the head, and then they left. Justin was there too. He was Angie’s boyfriend, but he sat in the back with his friends. He took her hand now and led the way to his truck.
I watched from the church as she bent forward once they got inside his truck. Her shoulders were shaking so I knew she was crying. He moved over to comfort her. Then I looked to the left where Marissa had parked. She was watching them too, but she wasn’t alone. The new boyfriend came over and kissed the back of her neck. They got into her car and drove off while Angie was still crying in Justin’s car.
It struck me as odd.
Angie was crying, but she barely knew my brother. And I knew Marissa was leaving to have sex. That’s all she talked about before the funeral. Angie told her to shut up, but it never worked. Marissa ignored her and did what she wanted to do.
Jesse stood next to me and followed my gaze. He grimaced. “Your friends suck.”
I frowned. “No, they don’t.”
“Yeah, they do. But don’t take my word for it.”
He snorted, rolling his eyes. “They shouldn’t be. They didn’t know Ethan and they should still be here for you. Where are your parents?”
I shrugged. “They’re here somewhere.” But I knew they weren’t. They left almost immediately after the ceremony. That was normal now. Since the accident, they hadn’t talked to me. I knew my mom was grieving. I could hear her crying at night. My dad was with her, but sometimes he ignored her. He spent the nights on the couch. She stayed in their room and I sat on the stairs, between them. No one went near Ethan’s room. And Jesse had stopped staying over so his room sat empty. I stayed in his room that first night, but I didn’t sleep. I just laid there and waited until morning.
Glancing up at him, I saw the frustration in his dark eyes. His black hair had been combed to the side earlier, but it was sticking up. He raked a hand through it and pulled at it when he was really pissed. It was a mess now. His dark eyes flashed from anger as he scowled. With high cheekbones, his fuck-off attitude, he was lethal.
I asked, “Where’s your dad?”
Jesse rolled his eyes. “Fuck. You think he’d come to this?”
He snorted. “He wouldn’t come.”
But he paused. I heard the small inflection and I asked, “Did you tell him?”
I understood. Malcolm Hunt was a big deal in the Hollywood scene, but he was almost nonexistent in his son’s life. Hence the reason why Jesse had been living with my family since his own mother died four years ago. Sometimes I wondered if Malcolm Hunt even knew his son never stayed in their huge mansion, but Zala probably covered for him. She was their housekeeper, but she doted on Jesse. I knew she had more so since Ethan’s accident. I saw her at the hospital a few times with him. I’d never admit it, but I was jealous of Jesse. I wished Zala would hug me at times or bring me food like she did with him.
“Screw this shit. Do you want to leave?” He glanced around. The corners of his eyes were stretched tight and his frown was a fully formed scowl now. The tie he had worn had been ripped out. I saw it peeking out of his pocket.
“To get drunk.” He jerked a shoulder up. “I don’t care. We can go to the house. No one will be there.”
“What about Zala?”
“Are you hungry?”
I shook my head. “No.” I didn’t remember the last time I was hungry. No, I did. Before the accident. I wanted pizza when we went to Justin’s party. Angie and I raided his family’s kitchen and baked a homemade pizza. Lots of cheese.
“Why’d you ask about my housekeeper then?”
“I don’t know.” I was lying. I lied to everyone now. It was second nature, though I didn’t know why I had started.
“Let’s go. Everyone took off.”
I glanced towards the basement. They were serving sandwiches and potato salad, but I wondered who was even going to eat it. Jesse was right. The only people who lingered were the ones who went to this church. We didn’t. Some of Ethan’s classmates stayed, along with this football coach. As Jesse crossed the parking lot towards his black Ferrari, there was another group that congregated around the church’s picnic tables. I saw their paper plates and a part of me relaxed. At least someone stayed for the food. For some reason, that mattered. Ethan would’ve wanted people to enjoy a meal for him.
“Hunt!” one of the guys called out.
Jesse ignored them and gestured to the door. “Get in.”
As I did and reached for my seat belt, they were still watching us. One girl had stood from the table and stared at me, looking sad. She had long blonde hair and was pretty, like a real life doll. I asked, “Who are those guys?”
“Who, Jesse?” I could tell they weren’t ‘no one’.
“Jeremy Benson. Stay away from him. He’s bad news, Alex.”
Nothing more needed to be said. Benson and his friends were known for drugs, boozing, and getting arrested. I was glad that Jesse had ignored him now. He drove out of the parking lot and gunned the engine. Jesse had always been a speed demon, but it was worse since Ethan’s death. However, no one said anything. Jesse Hunt got away with almost anything he wanted. His dad gave enough money to the local police department and who else would step in to stop him? Maybe Ethan, but his best friend was dead now.
My brother was dead now.
I’d never get used to it. Ethan was supposed to be next to us. No, that wasn’t right either. Ethan was supposed to be where I was sitting. I should’ve been in the back seat and my brother would’ve been lecturing Jesse on the laws, how he needed to follow the set speed limit. Jesse would ignore him, but he’d grin and slow to a more reasonable pace. Then the two would laugh about something, curse at each other, and we’d head back to my home. Ethan never knew it, but sometimes Jesse and I touched hands. We never held each other’s hands. Jesse had a girlfriend, but not anymore.
I looked over at his clenched jaw. His knuckles gripped the wheel tight. I sighed, “Are you hoping to join him?”
His foot let up immediately on the pedal. “Sorry.” He shot me a rueful look. “I don’t think sometimes.”
“I wish I could stop thinking.”
He glanced over again. “You seem to be holding up all right.”
“It’s called not feeling. It’s the best method for mourning. You don’t.”
A corner of his mouth lifted, but it wasn’t a grin. It wasn’t even a half-grin. Jesse’s eyes were empty now. “I think I’ll try that tonight.”
“Stop thinking. Stop feeling.”
“I want to get drunk tonight.”
“It’s on the agenda.” His eyes flickered now. A little bit of warmth was there. “You sure your parents were still there? I didn’t see their car in the lot.”
I lied again. “They think I’m staying at Angie’s tonight.”
“Does Angie know that?”
He grinned again as he turned onto his street. Then he turned up the hill that their huge mansion had been built on. As he parked outside, a brand new Jaguar was already there. Jesse stopped and stared at it before the slightest bit of warmth faded from his eyes again. He took his keys out and dug it into the side of the car. He walked the entire length before he tucked his keys back into his pocket, taking my hand in his. “Fucking new girlfriend’s here.”
“My dad’s. Come on.” He took me down the hill so we entered the house from the back door. We walked through the basement and headed up the farthest set of stairs. A feminine giggle was above us, followed by a man’s moan, but Jesse ignored the sounds. He led the way through the back hallways until we got to the farthest end of the house. I knew where his room was, but it’d been so long. I might’ve gotten lost. As we stepped into his room, it was like a whole other house inside of their house. Jesse had his own living quarters.
The sounds had grown quieter, but when he shut the door, there were no more sounds. It was only us.
I perched on his king sized bed while he rifled through his liquor cabinet. He had his own bar. It still amazed me, even though I knew he’d had it for a while. He was a junior. No, that wasn’t right anymore. Ethan had graduated. Jesse would be a senior and I was going to be a junior. We were so young, but I didn’t feel young anymore. I felt old, too old. And as Jesse poured himself a glass of something dark, he didn’t look young either.
Was it possible to age years in three days?
I felt it.
“Here.” Jesse gestured to the second glass. “Come over here.”
I did. My dress inched up my thigh, but I didn’t pay it any attention. I wouldn’t even feel it in a moment. I was still new to drinking. My first party had been earlier in the year, but I knew my tolerance wasn’t much. This glass and another, I’d be drunk.
Jesse already finished his. He began pouring a second for himself.
Well, maybe not. Maybe I wouldn’t feel this, like I didn’t feel anything else. But I drank it and I did. There was a burn. I barely flinched as I nudged the glass over for a refill.
I nodded. I needed it. Tonight, I needed it. Tomorrow, I’d deal with the consequences.
After I sipped the second drink, I cringed. “Marissa told me that you broke up with Sarah. Is that true?”
He nodded as he leaned against the wall behind his counter. He moved his glass around, making the liquid swish in a circle. “I suppose.”
“Why not?” he countered, frowning into his glass.
His eyes looked up and caught mine. He was hurting. I saw the agony, but I could only see it because it was in me. No one else saw it. No one else was privy enough to be allowed past his walls. Why he let me through, I’d probably never know, but I was grateful. He was the only one who understood because he was the only one who loved Ethan as much as I did.
He relinquished, “I broke up with her because it was getting too serious.”
“You weren’t with Ethan that night?”
He finished his glass and poured another. As he settled back against the wall, he shook his head. “No. I was at dinner with Sarah and her parents. The fucking in-laws, or that’s what they were referring to themselves as. I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t even want to be there.”
I bit my tongue. Sarah was perfect. She was tiny. She was beautiful. She was kind. And she’d been Jesse’s girlfriend for three years. She was almost opposite of me in most ways. I was normal in height and slender, but unlike her porcelain skin, mine was golden tan. Angie told me it matched well with my dark hair and dark eyes. It didn’t matter how I measured up. No one else intimidated me more than her. I sighed now because I wanted to ask him so many more questions, but I recognized the angry tone to his voice. He was moving beyond his irritation. It might’ve been the funeral or his dad’s girlfriend’s car. I didn’t know. Maybe it was even me, but this Jesse was ready to snap. I’d been around a few times when he had. It was never good. A guy had gotten beaten up one time. Another time Jesse had been arrested for taking a bat to someone’s car. The third was when he drove a car over a cliff. I’d been in the car and he told me to get out before I knew what he was doing. He’d thrown himself out of it before it was air-born, but that’d been the scariest. It was the day his mother had died.
Ethan told me later that car had been Evelyn’s, Jesse’s mother’s.
That same Jesse was with me right now.
Uneasiness prickled down my back, but he wouldn’t hurt me. Jesse never hurt me. He’d react around me, but never at me.
“Why are you asking questions about Sarah, Alex?” He glared at me over his glass. His eyes were dark and stormy. A shiver went down my back, but not a bad one. As my lungs filled, I needed to be there. I couldn’t be anywhere else. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wanted it. I needed it.
I tipped my head back and drank the last of my alcohol in one swallow. My tolerance was still low, but I learned some skill over the last year. I pushed it towards him across the counter again.
He didn’t move to refill it.
“I want another one.”
“Why are you asking questions about Sarah, Alexandra?” He didn’t move from the wall.
“Jesse, come on.”
“You come on. Answer my question.”
“Answer mine first.”
“I did.” But he frowned back into his glass. He hadn’t. He knew I knew he hadn’t.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Right, because it’s getting too serious makes perfect sense,” I bit out. “I’m a year younger, but I’m not an idiot. I know you, Jesse. You dumped her when we were at the hospital. She called to ask if you wanted her there and you said to get out of your life for good. Then you hung up. Real classy for a boyfriend. Three years and that’s how you break up with her.”
He glowered at me. “Shut up.”
“No. I think she deserves an explanation. I would. I mean, really. Three years and that’s all you said? I know you haven’t talked to her since. You blocked her number.”
I answered his unspoken question, “I watched you do it. I could tell what you’re doing. I’m not stupid.”
“You could tell?” His eyes narrowed to slits and he put his glass on the counter. Two steps from the wall and he was against the counter. “You can tell what I’m doing?”
I swallowed thickly. I had been able to tell, but this Jesse was new to me. He was predatory and scary. A second shiver went down my spine. He wasn’t scary in a bad way, but in a good way, an all-together scary form of a good way. I licked my lips as he stalked around the counter.
My heart began pounding and I opened my legs a little. I knew what he was going to do before he did it. I think I had always known.
You wanted this the whole time, even back at the church. You little hussy.