Authors: Juliana Haygert
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Juliana Haygert.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
First Edition November 2014
Edited by H. Danielle Crabtree Cover design by Najla Qamber/
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of 6/504
the following brands mentioned in this work of fiction: Coke, ibuprofen, Harley Davidson, Mustang, Camaro, Mazda, Corolla, Sprite, Twitter, Netflix, Gilmore Girls, Ferrari, Habitat for Humanity, AutoCAD, Rhinoceros.
To my adolescence.
Thanks for giving me lots of story ideas.
My brother, Jason, and Ryan had been best friend since I could remember, and I de-veloped a crush on Ryan not long after that.
But being three years younger than both of them meant I was a brat, a nuisance.
We grew up. The boys became interested in girls, and the girls fell over their feet at every corner. The way they used girls was sickening. The way the girls kept coming was even more sickening.
Meanwhile, I continued being a brat, a nuisance, and Ryan never noticed me.
When I was sixteen years old, I spent the summer with my grandma, over six hundred miles from home.
The moment I set foot back home, Ryan noticed me. It was as if he had never seen me before, and I loved the attention.
Naively, I thought I could change him, that he could be a one-girl kind of man.
I was wrong.
Ryan broke my heart.
Then my papa broke my soul.
And I moved away.
I sank in the corner booth, doodling on my sketchpad and wondering what I was doing here.
My phone dinged and I reached for it.
So, what did he want?
Still don’t know.
Maybe he’s going to propose
Don’t joke about that.
Come on, J. He isn’t THAT bad.
Gavin wasn’t that bad. He wasn’t bad at all. But he wasn’t right either.
I should just pretend I have a
headache and leave.
Don’t be mean. Stay and hear
Are you on his side?
You know I’m on your side.
It doesn’t look like it.
Just hang on for now. We can
do something fun later. How about we go to
the park by the water so you can sketch
And what’s in it for you?
I’ll gawk at the preppy men
handling the boats. Or the sweaty guys running or playing volleyball.
Maybe I should go with the headache after all and meet Kristin at the park in a few minutes. However, before I could sum up the courage to stand up and leave, Gavin was back, carrying two cups of coffee and a plate with two brownies on a tray.
“Here you go, babe,” he said, sliding in-to the booth and pushing the tray in front of me.
I let go of my pencil and wrapped my hands around my coffee. “Thanks.” Gavin took a bite of his brownie and offered me a closed-mouth smile. I let my 12/504
eyes wandered over his face. He was handsome, with black curls that framed his cute face, fair skin, and big brown eyes that shone every time they were targeted at me. He was hot too, with a tall, worked-out frame.
Besides all that, he was also a good student, with straight As and a bright future. He wanted to be a well-known lawyer like his father. He was intelligent, kind, somewhat funny, and he seemed genuinely concerned about me. Like he actually liked me.
So why didn’t I like him back?
“You had your last midterm test this morning, didn’t you?” he asked, breaking the silence. “How was it?”
Of course he knew my schedule by heart. “It was fine.”
“And how is your project going? Think it’ll be ready by the end of the semester?” As an architecture student, I had a Design Studio class every semester, where I had to design an entire project from houses 13/504
to malls or hospitals. Being in the fourth semester, I had to design an apartment building.
“Fine too,” I said simply.
“Gavin, why did you invite me here?” I hadn’t meant to cut him off, but I hated when he behaved like a boyfriend when he knew he wasn’t one. “I thought we were supposed to meet only on the weekend.”
“Because I want to ask you something.” He shifted his weight, pulling one leg over the booth and turning his body to me. “In two weeks, my parents are hosting a big surprise party for my brother. He is going to ask his girlfriend to marry him.”
“Oh-kay.” I sipped my coffee.
“I want you to come with me.”
I chocked on my coffee. “Excuse me?”
“We’ve been going out for the past eight months, babe, but I still don’t know your family, and you still don’t know mine.” 14/504
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“I want to meet your family.”
There wasn’t a family to meet. It was just me and my grandma, but he didn’t know that. Every time he asked me about my family, I changed the subject. And when he picked me up at home or dropped me off, I made sure he didn’t get close to the front door.
“Come on, babe. I like you. I want us to be serious. I want us to go out on real dates, to hold hands on campus, to have lunch together every day. I want you to meet my family.”
It wasn’t the first time he had told me this, and it wouldn’t be the last. Maybe our expiration date was closer than I thought.
I shook my head. “Please, Gavin.”
“You must like me at least a little, otherwise you wouldn’t have stuck with me for so long. But what are you so afraid of?” 15/504
“Nothing,” I snapped. “I’m fine, and I like the way things are.”
He took my hand in his. “That’s not true. What girl doesn’t want more?” I pulled my hand away. “This girl.”
Gavin and I snapped our heads to the new voice. A guy holding a tray with cups and muffins stood beside our table, a girl beside him.
“Hey, Johnny.” Gavin smiled. He shook his friend’s hand in that bumping way guys did it. “Hi, Carla.” Gavin waved at the girl, and then gestured to me. “You two remember Jessica, right?”
Johnny shifted his blue eyes to me. “We met at the party at the frat house last month, right?”
“Yes,” I said, forcing a smile.
Without being invited, Johnny and Carla sat in the booth across the table from us. Immediately, Gavin and the couple 16/504
launched into a conversation about the latest games, parties, rumors, gossips, and all that.
Johnny had been in all of Gavin’s classes since freshman year. For two semesters, they had even been roommates, until Johnny moved to his frat house last semester. Carla was Johnny’s girlfriend of about two years.
They were serious; the way Gavin wanted us to be.
Carla flipped her long yellow-blond hair and pulled out her cell phone from her purse. “Smile,” she said, leaning into her boyfriend to take a selfie. He kissed her cheek, while she made a come-hither face with pouted lips and half-closed eyes. Then she turned her phone to us. “You two look too cute together.”
Without warning, she snapped a picture, and I froze.
“Wait. That one didn’t count,” Gavin said. He put his arm around my shoulders and drew me closer. His smile was wide, 17/504
happy. Meanwhile, my insides revolved and I squirmed. I tried to hide behind my hair. Noticing my evasion, Gavin whispered, “It’s okay, babe, just a quick picture.” In eight months with him, I had avoided all kinds of pictures. We wouldn’t start taking them now. In fact, I wouldn’t start taking pictures. Ever.
I lowered my head as the flash went off.
“Oh no,” Carla protested. “You’re too beautiful to hide. Come on. Just one more.”
“Hmm.” I searched my mind for some lie, any lie to rescue me from this situation. I didn’t want to take pictures, and I didn’t want to meet Gavin’s friends, much less his family. My cell phone rang, playing the song I had selected for my home number, and I sighed in relief. I was being saved from pictures, but grandma rarely called me.
“Grandma?” I answered. “Is everything all right?”
She exhaled loudly. “Hmm, well … Something happened. Hon, you better come home.”
Why did he ask?
During the ride to my house, the tension inside his car was palpable. He tried initiating conversation several times, but I didn’t answer. If I weren’t dying to get home and find out what happened to make my grandma call me, I would have taken the bus or walked home, instead of accepting a ride.
I opened the door and slid a leg out.
“Wait.” He held my wrist and pulled me back. I glanced at him. “I feel like you’re mad at me and I’m not sure what I did wrong.
Anyway, I’m sorry, for whatever.” He made 19/504
puppy eyes at me. “I just want to know you’re okay.”
Subdued, I leaned over his seat and he closed the space between us, merging his lips with mine. His kiss was sweeter than usual, slower, more careful.
“Call me later?” he whispered against my lips.
I nodded and slipped out of the car.
With my keys already in hand, I ran the path from the sidewalk to the yellow front door of my townhouse.
“Grandma?” I called after I locked the door behind me.
“In here,” she answered.
I followed the direction of her voice and found her in the kitchen, preparing tea and a snack.
“What’s that for?”
With shaking hands, she placed the mugs, the cracker packet, and the honey 20/504
bottle on the small wooden table along one of the walls. “Have a seat.”
Damn, this didn’t look good. She never, ever waited for me to get home with treats—especially not honey. I sat down, wary of her movements and the way she avoided my eyes.
“Grandma, you’re worrying me.” Sighing, she sat down across from me and took her mug in her hands. Still, she didn’t look into my eyes. “God damn it, say something already.”
“Your mother called,” she finally said.
What the hell? I never talked to my mama, but I knew she called my grandma all the time, to know about me, of course.
I stood. “This isn’t funny.”
“No, it’s not funny.” She raised her light blue eyes to mine. “Your father is in the hospital.”
I held my breath for a moment. “That’s not my problem.” I winced at my words. I 21/504
didn’t mean to sound like a bitch, but whenever he was involved, I couldn’t help it.
My grandma sighed. “He’s dying.” I dropped back into the chair, feeling oddly empty. My feelings for him had been buried for so long that it took me a while to digest the news. “How’s Mama?”
“Trying to be strong, but desolate. They have been together for twenty-eight years.
It’s a long time to be with someone and suddenly find out that soon they won’t be together anymore.”
Sadness for Mama filled my chest.
“How long does he have?”
“Your mother said five to seven months.”
A pang ran through my chest. That wasn’t long at all. “What now?”
“I think you should go home,” she said.
I shook my head, not liking her reason-ing. “Here’s home. It has been for the past four years.”
“I know, I know. I just … If you don’t go, you’ll regret it later.”