Authors: Colleen Hoover
“Why? You’re lying to him. We don’t have a project to work on.”
Miller rolls his head. “Yes, we
.” He looks at his grandpa disapprovingly. “You two aren’t allowed to hang out anymore. You’re too much alike.”
Gramps smiles at me as we leave the living room. When we walk down the hallway, I glance into their bathroom. Miller sees my pause. There are multiple pill bottles lined up on the counter, and the reminder that his grandpa is sick makes my stomach twist into a knot.
Once we’re in Miller’s bedroom, he can tell my mood has shifted. “Thinking about Gramps?”
“Yeah. Sucks. Bad.” He kicks off his shoes and lies down in the middle of the bed, patting the mattress next to him. I kick off my shoes and crawl in, tucking myself to his side, draping my arm over him.
“How’d the doctor visit go today?”
He pushes back my hair, running his fingers all the way to the ends. “We talked about what to expect over the next few months. It’s not really safe for him to be here alone while I’m in school, so they’re putting him on hospice soon. Once he’s on hospice, an aide will be here with him most of the time, so that’s a relief. I won’t have to drop out of school.”
I sit up on my elbow. “Was that really your only option?”
“Yeah. My mother died when I was ten, and he’s her father. I have an uncle who lives in California, but he’s not much help from there. Other relatives stop by a lot. Make sure we have what we need. But I’ve lived with him since I was ten, so most of the responsibility falls on my shoulders.”
I had no idea his mother passed away. “I’m so sorry.” I shake my head. “That’s a lot of pressure for someone your age.”
Miller rests a hand on my cheek. “You’re only sixteen and look what you’ve been through. Life doesn’t play favorites.” He pulls my head to his chest. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s talk about something else.”
He smells good. Like lemon this time. “When’s your birthday?” I ask.
“December fifteenth.” He pauses. “Yours is next week, right?”
I nod, but I’d like to forget. With my birthday comes the traditional birthday dinner, but this will be the first one without my dad and Aunt Jenny. I don’t want to think about it, so I change the subject. “What’s your favorite color?”
“I don’t have one. I like all of them except orange.”
“Really? I like orange.”
“You shouldn’t. It’s a terrible color,” he says. “What’s your least favorite color?”
“You just said you
“You made me doubt it, like maybe there’s something wrong with it that I’m not aware of.”
wrong with orange,” he says. “It doesn’t even rhyme with anything.”
“Is it the color or the word you don’t like?”
“Both. I hate them both.”
“Did something in particular spark this immense hatred?”
“No. It came about naturally, I guess. Maybe I was born this way.”
“Is it a particular shade of orange you loathe?”
“I hate them all,” he says. “Every shade of orange, from mango to coral.”
I laugh. “This is the stupidest conversation I’ve ever had.”
“Yeah, we’re kind of bad at this. Maybe we should just kiss.”
I pull my head from his chest and look up at him. “Hurry, because I’m starting to forget why I’m even attracted to you.”
He grins and then rolls on top of me, brushing back my hair while he smiles lazily. “Need a reminder?”
I nod. This is the most connection our bodies have ever had. We’ve kissed standing up. We’ve kissed in his truck. We’ve kissed sitting down. But we’ve never kissed on a bed with his body between my legs. He rests his mouth against mine, but doesn’t kiss me. He adjusts the pillow beneath my head; then he kicks the covers away, all while barely teasing my lips with his.
“This sure is taking a long time,” I say.
“I want you to be comfortable.” He keeps his mouth near mine and lifts my neck a little, pulling my hair out from beneath me. He piles it over my shoulder and whispers, “Ready?” against my lips.
I start to laugh, but the laugh never happens because Miller’s tongue parts my lips, and my near laugh turns into a gasp. It feels different like this—with him on top of me.
The kiss is nice. Slow flicks of his tongue. His fingers trailing down my arm. Mine trailing up his back.
But then I feel him begin to harden between my legs, and it both surprises me and gives me confidence. I wrap my legs around his waist, wanting to ease the ache I’m beginning to feel there, but it only makes it worse. His kiss deepens, and he pushes against me, forcing a moan up my throat. He pauses the kiss for a second, as if that sound does something to him, but then he brings his mouth back to mine with an even more profound urge.
I lift the back of his shirt, wanting to feel his skin beneath my palms. I run my hands up his back until I reach the tight curves of his shoulder muscles. Before I know it, I’m tugging at his shirt, wanting it off him. He obliges and separates us for the three seconds it takes for him to take off his shirt and throw it on the floor.
The next few minutes don’t escalate beyond the shirt removal, but it doesn’t deescalate either. The make-out session just leaves us both aching and panting and not at all in the mood to work on our project.
Miller eventually rolls off of me, onto his side, with his mouth still on mine. We kiss like that for a minute—it’s not as exciting, but I think that’s the point. He’s trying to slow down something I don’t think he intended to start.
His eyes are closed when he finally stops kissing me, and then he presses his forehead to mine. He brings his hand to my chest and rests it there, feeling my heart thumping wildly against his palm. When he pulls away and opens his eyes, he’s smiling down at me. “You know what else sucks about the color orange?”
I laugh. “What?”
“All the celebrities used that orange square to announce Fyre Festival. And look how that turned out.”
“You’re right. Orange is the worst.”
He falls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. It’s quiet for a moment, and my heart is still racing.
“Did you want me to stop?” he asks.
“Making out with you.”
I shrug. “Not really. I was enjoying it.”
“I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to move too fast, but I really wanted to take off your shirt. Not your bra. Just your shirt.”
“I’m cool with that.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Is your bra orange?”
“No, it’s white.”
“Good.” He rolls back on top of me and starts kissing me again.
Suffice it to say, we don’t get anything done on the project, but he also stays true to his word and doesn’t even attempt to remove my bra.
I wake up to the sound of my phone vibrating on my nightstand. I look over at the window, but the sun hasn’t even fully risen yet.
No one calls me this early.
I reach over and pick up my phone and see Jonah’s name at the top of the screen. I drop the phone on the nightstand and fall back onto my pillow.
We haven’t spoken in over a week. Not since the night we almost kissed. He’s texted twice, asking how I’m doing. I didn’t respond to either text.
It’s hard, because I want to separate myself from him, but at the same time, I want to spend time with Elijah. It sucks that Jonah and Elijah are a package deal.
I’m hoping we can work out some kind of visitation schedule. It would be even better if we didn’t have to go to each other’s houses to exchange Elijah. We could Uber Elijah back and forth.
That thought makes me laugh. Ubering babies from house to house. I wonder if there’s a minimum age limit for Uber passengers.
My phone pings. A text. I swing my arm back to my nightstand and pull my phone to my face. I sit up in bed when I see how many missed calls and texts I have from Jonah.
I throw the covers off and stand up, urgently pressing the screen to call him back. He answers on the first ring. “Morgan?”
“Is Elijah okay?”
Jonah sighs with relief at the sound of my voice. “I’m sorry to even ask you, but he’s been up all night with a fever, so I can’t take him to day care. But I can’t call in to work today. It’s state testing day for the freshmen, and after school lets out, I have two conferences sch—”
“Of course.” My hand is on my chest. My heart is pounding. I thought it was something worse. “Of course. Bring him over.”
Jonah’s voice is softer. Less panicked. “I won’t be able to pick him up until after six.”
“It’s fine. I miss him.”
I spend the next twenty minutes in the kitchen cooking. Jonah sounded so stressed on the phone, and if Elijah was up all night with a fever, that means Jonah is going to need some energy today. I used to do this for Chris. I’d make breakfast burritos packed with protein and send a bag with him on his busiest days.
I might also be making Jonah breakfast as somewhat of an apology. I feel like I was too harsh on him last week. Maybe I’ve been too harsh on him since he came back into our lives. Either way, burritos will make it better.
I’m also hoping this is a step forward. Maybe we can work out some sort of deal to where Elijah can be a huge part of my life, and Jonah and I can build an actual friendship. I stay up most nights thinking about what he said to me in the driveway, and while it did have a profound impact on the resentment I’ve been holding toward him, I also realize that the feelings he was talking about were in the past.
We were teenagers back then. We were different people. He wasn’t saying that he
felt that way. He was simply saying he
to feel that way.
He’s been back in our lives for several months now, and nothing outside of that near kiss has indicated he still has those same feelings, so whatever he thought he felt for me when we were teenagers is something he obviously worked through during the years he was away. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have slept with Jenny when they ran into each other last year. And he wouldn’t have moved in with her or agreed to marry her if he still had feelings for me.
That gives me hope that a friendship between us might actually work.
I’m stuffing the burritos into a bag when there’s a knock at the door. I let Jonah in, but I pause for a second when I take him in. He’s dressed up today. He’s wearing a black long-sleeved dress shirt with a black-and-silver tie. He shaved his stubble and finally got a haircut. He looks younger. I start to comment on how nice he looks but think better of it.
Elijah is fussing in the car seat, so I unbuckle him and take him out of it. He’s warm when I pull him to my chest. “Poor thing.” He sounds congested. “Are you giving him anything?”
Jonah nods and pulls a couple of prescription bottles out of the diaper bag. “I took him to the ER around midnight. They gave me these, said to rotate them every four hours.” He holds one of them up. “Give him this one in two hours.” He sets the diaper bag down. “I packed extra clothes and rags. You might need them today.”
“You took him to the emergency room? Have you even slept?”
As if the thought of it is a trigger, Jonah yawns, covering his mouth with a fist. He shakes his head. “I’ll be okay. I might have time to make a Starbucks run.” He opens the living room door to leave.
“Wait.” I go to the kitchen and grab the sack of breakfast burritos, running them back to him before he escapes. “I made these for you. Breakfast burritos. Sounds like you’re about to have a long day.”
Jonah looks at me with a soft appreciation as he takes it from me. “Thank you.” There’s a little bit of surprise in his voice, and I try not to let that please me, but it does. It feels good to do something nice for him. I’ve been so hard on him for so long.
“I’ll text you with updates on Elijah. Don’t worry. He’s in good hands.”
Jonah smiles. “I don’t doubt that for a second. See you tonight.”
As soon as he leaves, Clara walks around the corner, dressed for school. She sees Elijah in my arms and lights up, holding her arms out in front of her. “Gimme.”
I hand him to her. “He’s sick. Don’t kiss him—you might catch it.”
She cradles him against her chest and kisses his forehead anyway. “Sick babies need all the kisses they can get.”
She’s right. When Clara was a baby, the sicker she was, the more I coddled her and kissed her and just wanted to take all her aches and pains away.
God, I miss those days.
I’m sure sometime in the near future, I’ll miss
days. I feel like Clara and I are an impossible pair this year, but I know I’ll miss it after she moves out and starts a life of her own. I’ll miss it all—the arguments, the silent treatments, the groundings, the rebellious behavior.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Clara asks.
I smile and pull her in for a hug. She’s holding Elijah, so she can’t reciprocate the hug, but it’s enough that she isn’t pulling away. I kiss the side of her head. “I love you.”
When I pull back, she’s looking at me with a cautious expression. But then she smiles and says, “Love you, too, Mom.”