Authors: Bonnie Dee
All of a sudden, she found herself leaning toward him, reaching out a hand and touching his biceps, rising on the balls of her feet and pressing close. The pressure of his mouth on hers grew stronger. One of his hands rested on her waist, holding her steady.
The curve of her breasts brushed his chest. She could
his heat bathing her skin.
This was so much more than mouth touching mouth and the strength of the desire tumbling through her frightened her. It was too much, too fast. She wasn’t ready for this.
Jen pulled away, stepping back and bringing a hand to her mouth. She stared at Drake, who looked a little stunned, his eyes half-closed and glazed as if he were high. His lips were parted and he exhaled a breath that was audible in the quiet clearing.
She was torn. She could take a breath and move toward him again for another kiss, maybe with tongues this time. She could let his arms steal around her and hold her against his body, feel the hard bands of muscles that held his bones together. She could let her hand drift up the back of his neck and into his hair, learn whether it was as soft as it looked. But if that all happened…what then?
No. She wasn’t ready to have a make-out session with this boy she barely knew.
This wasn’t at all how she’d imagined her first kiss or the kind of person she’d share it with.
“I gotta go.” Jen spun away and walked up the path fast. Her towel got snagged on a bush and nearly torn off her hips. She stopped to unhook it and caught a glimpse of Drake some distance behind. By the time she made it to the main path, he’d dropped way behind, giving her a chance to return to the beach first—alone.
Her heart was beating so fast her chest hurt and her head whirled as she tried to sort through what had just happened—not only the kiss but the moments they’d shared watching the swans. They hadn’t talked about anything important. They hadn’t talked much at all and yet she’d felt a strange bond with him in those quiet minutes.
But Drake Malinson wasn’t someone she could brag to her friends about or a guy she could call her boyfriend and acknowledge at school. This, her very first kiss, must remain a secret, filed away in a compartment in her mind. Perhaps taken out and examined sometimes, but never spoken of aloud. She’d walk the other way if she saw Drake in the corridors at school next year. She’d pretend she didn’t know him and she knew he’d do the same.
They were hardly of the same species. They had nothing in common.
Jen bit her trembling lower lip and clenched her jaw hard, blinking her eyes furiously to keep back the tears. She’d die before she let anyone see her cry as she hurried from the rental hall decorated with a nineteen sixties theme—the prom committee’s brilliant idea of retro-chic.
She pushed her way through the double doors and stepped out into the dark night, cool for so late in the spring. She drew a deep breath of air into her aching lungs and exhaled shakily. Prom, the most special night in a girl’s life. Bullshit. She’d never felt more miserable, more like crawling into bed and hibernating until high school was over.
To make matters worse, she didn’t have her car so she couldn’t just drive home.
Her son-of-a-bitch prom date had picked her up, so she was stranded at the Heritage Glen Hall unless she asked one of her girlfriends to give her a ride. Right now she was too upset to face them. Besides she didn’t want to interrupt Antia’s evening because she was having a great time, dancing the night away in her boyfriend’s arms. It seemed prom wasn’t a hellish nightmare for everyone. Jen laughed aloud, a short, bitter sound that startled her.
A breeze gusted over her bare arms and she hugged them around herself. Her wrap was still draped over the chair at her table. The gauzy gray scarf that made a pretty contrast to her rose dress would stay on that chair until the hall was empty and the building closed because she’d never go back inside.
Jen threaded her way between the cars in the parking lot and headed toward the riverfront. She reached the boardwalk and strode carefully in her unaccustomed high heels. The last thing she needed was to catch a heel on between the boards and twist her ankle or something. That would be the perfect end to her horrible evening.
She gazed down at the water below and at the reflections of lights dancing on its surface. A boat glided past, heading for the marina. On the walkway, a man and woman approached and passed Jen, their arms around each other, voices murmuring and mingling in laughter. A happy couple. She hated them for their intimate tones and smiling faces.
She shivered as another chill breeze blew in from the river, bringing with it the smell of fishy water. There was a bench beside the boardwalk and she plunked down on it, the material of her dress rustling around her. She smoothed a hand over the fabric. It was pink, girly, childishly naïve just like her, she decided. How could she have been taken in by a player like Tom Bradford? The stupid thing was that a small, logical part of her brain had warned her of danger from the beginning, but she’d been so overwhelmed, so
by who he was, that she’d allowed herself to believe the fairytale.
Her gaze fell on the corsage wrapped around her wrist like a manacle. She tore off the orchids and threw them toward the river. Of course she was way too far away for the dramatic gesture to have the desired impact of the corsage splashing into the water.
Instead, it landed in the grass where the flowers continued to taunt her for her foolishness.
“Wrong color?” A voice from behind made Jen give a startled shriek and leap up from the bench.
She whirled around. It took her a second to focus on the tall figure emerging from the shadows and into the streetlight, but then she recognized Drake Malinson. She hadn’t spoken to him since that long ago day when they’d shared the swans and a kiss.
She flashed back to that day, every detail etched vividly in her mind from the feel of the muggy heat to the smell of the swamp, the first glimpse of white feathers to the taste of a boy’s mouth. She’d relived the experience often the rest of that summer, but over time, she’d taken the memory out of its box less frequently. Eventually she’d been distracted by other boys, other kisses, and the memory of that first kiss had lost some of its almost magical power over her.
“You scared the hell out of me!” She exhaled and her heart resumed beating.
“What are you doing lurking around?”
He shrugged his shoulders, broader now that he was older, though he was still a long, lean kind of guy. “Business. Prom.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the hall.
Even from this distance Jen could hear the faint thud of the bass underscoring the music.
she almost asked, then the light bulb came on. Sneaking booze to make the party livelier was only part of what kids did on prom night. It was inevitable a drug dealer would be nearby to supply other desires they might have.
“I get it.” Scorn oozed from her voice. “But I meant why are you lurking
, around me?”
“Business is slow. Saw you leave and you looked like hell hounds were after you.” Drake made his way to the boardwalk to stand beside her. No tux for him. He wore a pair of jeans that sagged low on his hips and a long-sleeved shirt open over a T-shirt with the name of some band on the front.
When Jen inhaled, she could smell the sharp, burnt odor of pot and the underlying scent of his body. The smell wasn’t as unpleasant as it should have been. Once more she flashed back to the pressure of lips, of his hands touching her bare back, his skinny body pressed close to hers. Jen frowned and looked away from Drake, back toward the river.
“So what? Why do you care what I do?”
He pointed at the corsage in the grass. “Bad date? Real asshole, huh?” She hadn’t even run to her friends to confide her humiliation, why would she tell him? “None of your business.” She added, almost against her will, “Prom sucks.”
“Yeah. That’s what I hear.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out something—a lighter and a thin white cigarette which he put to his lips and lit. The end glowed red in the darkness.
Jen watched, fascinated by the flame and the ritual of lighting. She’d only smoked pot once and hadn’t really inhaled, just pretended to. It had been the last of Tara’s parties that she’d gone to before they’d parted ways. Jen had found a different group of friends in high school. The only one of the old gang she was still close to was Antia.
“You do know that’s illegal, right? You can’t just do that in public.” She glanced around, half expecting a cop to come running.
Drake looked around. “Not very public here.”
He was right. They were alone on the boardwalk, the strolling lovers out of sight and no one else nearby. The only sound was distant music and voices, traffic noise and the purr of a boat motor growing quieter by the second.
Drake moved closer to Jen and extended his hand. “You need this.”
“No, I don’t,” she immediately rejected the offer. Peer pressure didn’t work with her.
“Don’t you ever do anything on a whim? Sometimes it’s good to relax. You don’t always have to make sure all your clothes match and lay them out in neat little piles before you go to bed at night.”
Fury scorched through her at his sarcastic assessment of her life. He didn’t know anything about her. All of a sudden a rebellious surge of anger seized her. Why the hell not? Why was she always the straight arrow, the academically gifted good girl who was so boring that her prom date ditched her to find someone more interesting to make out with? This entire night sucked. Could it get any more bizarre than smoking pot with Drake Malinson?
She reached out and took the joint, brought it to her mouth and sucked in some smoke that tasted like burned rope—not that she’d ever tasted burned rope. Immediately, she blew it out again.
“You’re supposed to suck it into your lungs and hold it.”
“This is stupid. Like I want to coat my lungs with poisonous crap.” But she took another draw and felt the harsh smoke burn all the way down her throat.
“It isn’t near as bad for you as cigarettes. No nicotine.”
“That’s what potheads always say,” she said after she got done choking and caught her breath.
“That’s ‘cause it’s true.” He took the joint back and drew in an expert puff then he dropped down on the bench.
Jen considered walking away, but she didn’t have anywhere to go. She could call home and ask her mom to come get her, but she didn’t want to have to talk about what a failure the night had been, how her illusions about Tom had been destroyed, especially since her mom had hinted more than once that maybe he wasn’t such a great guy and had ulterior motives for being with her.
Jen sat on the bench beside Drake.
“So what happened?” he asked.
“My date’s a bastard.”
“You went with Tom Bradford, right? Yeah, he’s a douche.” She cut a sideways glance at him. He paid enough attention to know who she’d gone to prom with? That was interesting if creepy.
“What’d he do? Get drunk and paw at you?”
“No. He got drunk and pawed at somebody else. Leesa Vaughn. In the girls’
restroom. I walked in on them practically humping in a stall.” When she said it like a snappy comeback, it didn’t hurt quite as much. Not as much as if she’d cried on one of her friend’s comforting shoulders.
“Where are your girlfriends?” Drake asked. “Aren’t girls supposed to band together over something like that?”
“I didn’t tell them. I just saw Tom and Leesa together and walked out.”
“Yeah.” She could’ve gone on about how she’d thought Tom really liked her, how much she’d been looking forward to this dance, the last one of her high school life.
How she’d considered going all the way with Tom tonight even though she didn’t love him or anything. But evidently he’d gotten tired of waiting for her. Or maybe he’d never been all that interested in her and was just stringing her along because she was helping him pass his classes. Whatever. She sure wasn’t going to tell the whole embarrassing story for Drake’s entertainment.
He nudged her arm and she looked down to see the nub of a joint held between his long fingers. “Try again.”
A flicker of resistance shot through her but the “no” never reached her lips. She carefully took the butt from him, their fingers touching for a moment as he passed it to her. And just that light touch abruptly shot her backward like a time machine through the past four years to that moment when he’d touched her on a summer day. That had been another strange interlude like this—surreal, out of the context of her normal life. What was it about her and Drake Malinson sharing these chance meetings at particularly emotional times of her life?
Jen drew in a deep lung full of the smoke, held it until her eyes watered, then let it stream slowly between her lips. Her throat burned and she fought to suppress her cough this time but that only made her eyes water more. She choked into her hand while Drake took the joint from her.
She hadn’t felt any effect from the first hit, but now a woozy lightness hazed her senses. She blinked away the tears from her coughing fit and focused on the lights dancing across the ripples of the river at the bottom of the embankment.