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Authors: Juliana Stone

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BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
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“Yes.”

A heartbeat passed, and then I asked a question that had been buzzing around my brain since we got here.

“Can I ask you something?” I whispered.

“Anything.”

“Have you brought other girls here?”

Trevor was silent for a few moments, and when he spoke, I felt his warm breath on my skin. “Not a lot or anything, but Bailey's been here a few times.”

“In this bed?” Oh. My. God. Like where else would they be?

Again a pause.

“Yeah.”

“And you guys…” I don't know why, but suddenly tears poked the corners of my eyes. Hot, prickly tears. How inconvenient. “Never mind.”

“Hey,” he said, voice low. “It's okay. I'm not hiding anything from you. I'll tell you anything that you want to know.”

“I just…I've never…and you have and I don't know if I can…” Ugh. I was making a mess of this.

He kissed my cheek and rested his head on my shoulder. “I don't mind going slow, Everly. I don't mind at all.”

When I could speak again, I whispered, “Thank you.”

“You're worth waiting for.”

The tears, oh those stupid, silly tears, fell silently down my cheeks, and it took everything I had not to sniffle or shudder or let him know how affected I was by him. By the way he was with me.

Trevor Lewis had just knocked my world off its axis. He was the river.

And boy, I was glad that I jumped.

Chapter Twenty-one
Trevor

Our plans to spend the day out on the Tickfaw were ruined by a couple of things. First off, no one dragged their butts out of bed until nearly one o'clock in the afternoon. And well, the rain. It was coming down in buckets, and I'm not talking about a nice, soft, summer rain. This was a full on Louisiana sorry-about-your-luck kind of rain.

Whatever. Didn't bother me at all. I could have spent the entire weekend in bed with Everly. Even if all we did was cuddle, because the girl was soft and warm and she smelled amazing.

Also.
Everly
. Nuff said.

If it weren't for the other three people in the cottage, we might have, but Brent was a total douche and kept banging on our door, making inappropriate noises, the kind that made Everly's cheeks go rosy and adorable. After the fourth or fifth time, we realized he wasn't giving up. The guy couldn't help it. He'd always been a bit of a dick.

And apparently he wasn't staying either. Said the rain was depressing as hell and that hanging out with two couples was even worse. I knew he was not digging the fact that Link and I weren't interested in getting loaded with him, and drinking seemed to be the only thing he liked to do these days.

After he ate a crap ton of eggs, he packed his stuff and took off for home. Said he'd catch up with us later, but I wasn't so sure I'd see him before he left for Texas again. The guy was different. But then again, I guess we all were.

So, the way I saw it, Everly and I had a couple of choices.

We could stay in the cottage, maybe play cards (strip poker? not likely), and cuddle on the sofa while Link and Hailey disappeared into the other bedroom. And in the space of two hours, they'd disappeared at least three times.

Or we could head to Baton Rouge on our own.

We opted for Baton Rouge, because the thought of trying to act like we
didn't
know what Hailey and Link were doing, while we kept busy doing
everything
but
what Hailey and Link were doing, kind of sucked. We were taking it slow, and I was cool with that, but still, the cottage had paper-thin walls and our roommates weren't exactly quiet.

Everly drove and I tried to ignore the tic behind my right eye and the dull headache that wouldn't seem to go away. Wasn't hard to do. She looked hot in a dress that showed just enough leg to get a guy thinking. Tight jeans or short shorts were great, but there was something about a girl wearing a dress that I liked.

By the time we reached Baton Rouge the rain had stopped, and we decided to eat dinner at an outdoor place on Front Street. It was family owned, and according to my parents, had the best Creole and Cajun food in the city, which is why I suggested it. Turns out Everly had never been to Baton Rouge.

After digging into a plate full of crawfish-stuffed beignets, I had to agree. The food was top-shelf, and the company, well, I could have stared into Everly's eyes all night. I know. I was the guy in the chick flick. Sue me.

“What?” I asked, wiping the corner of my mouth as I settled back in my chair.

Everly shrugged and twirled the straw in her glass of soda, that slow smile creeping over her face. The one that made my stomach tighten. The one that made me think about lying in bed with her the night before.

“You sure can eat a lot,” she said softly.

“I'm a growing guy.” I laughed. “With a big appetite.” There it was. The blush I'd been waiting for.

“Good to know.” She tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear. “I, uh,” she said slowly, so slowly that her slight southern drawl was accented. “I'm just happy to be here with you. Away from Twin Oaks and everything.”

“Ditto.”

She smiled then, a full-on one-hundred-watt smile, and man, it felt like I'd just won the lottery. It was amazing that a smile could do that.

“Do you think this is weird?” she asked suddenly.

“Weird?” I wasn't sure where she was going with this, and damn, but my head was starting to throb again.

“Us. I mean, I just didn't think that we'd…that you and I…I'm…” Her cheeks flushed again and she blew that piece of hair back. It was humid and kept curling onto her face.

“You're?” I reached over and tucked that piece of hair back where it belonged. I heard her breath catch. It was a soft sound, but it hit me hard, and I leaned back in my chair again, heart racing in that way that's part excitement and part, I don't know, fear?

“I'm not like the girls you've dated. I'm not…super outgoing or into big parties or clubs.” She made this noise, like she was frustrated. “What do you see in me, Trevor?”

I tossed my napkin. She really didn't get it.

“What do you think I see?” I asked, because I was curious to know what was going on inside her head, even though the conversation had taken a sharp turn toward serious. Not usually my gig, but I
wanted
to know everything about the girl sitting across from me. Any guy looking at her would see someone with big blue eyes and an amazing mouth. He'd see rosy cheeks and hair that hung down her shoulders in dark, shiny ropes. He'd see a beautiful girl.

I
saw
a
beautiful
girl.

I wanted to know what was underneath all of that. I wanted to see it. To touch it. I wanted to be the guy she shared everything with. And maybe she was right. Maybe that was weird, considering we'd only been together for a few weeks.

But I also think that you can be with someone forever and not really know them. Not really love the parts that matter. (Did I really just use the word
love
?) A lot of guys get caught up in the physical stuff. I mean, we're guys. We're wired for that shit. Heck, most of the time it's all we think about when we see a girl. Getting laid and moving on to the next good time.

But this was different, and Everly Jenkins had somehow burrowed underneath my skin. She was like an invisible tattoo, and I wanted to show her off to the world.

She took a sip of her soda and exhaled.

“Truth?” she asked. “You really want to know what I think you see?”

“Truth.”

“I think you see a girl who might be a bit of a challenge.”

“Challenge?” Okay. That wasn't what I'd expected.

“Sure. I live in the perfect house, with the perfect family. God, we even have a white picket fence. Some kids think I'm a snob. Other's think I'm driven to get straight As, to be the best at everything.”

“You got straight As?” I was trying to joke, but she didn't take the bait. In fact, her eyes got darker, like she was angry.

“I know what they say about me, Trevor. A lot of guys think it would be cool to nail the pastor's daughter, and a lot more think that
because
I'm a pastor's daughter, I must be a raving sex maniac. So guys are either scared to approach me or they're in my face, and not in a good way.”

“Nope.”

“What?”

“You're wrong.”

I waited a beat, because I needed to get this right. I needed for her to know. It was just hard, making the right words come out sometimes. And that damn tic was getting worse.

“I see
you
, Everly. The real you. The one that no one else gets to see. She's beautiful and she's sad and when she thinks no one can see her, she's kind of broken. I get that.”

She blinked, her eyes wide and shiny. “No one has ever said anything like that to me before.”

“It's because you've never let them.” I scooped up my napkin, fingers nervous now. “Why is that?”

“Why is what?”

“You dated that guy, Jason what's-his-face, for a while, but other than him, I don't remember seeing you around with anyone.”

“Trevor, you didn't know I existed until this summer.”

“Wrong again. So damn wrong.”

She looked surprised at that. “But we've barely talked since grade school.”

“Everly. Come on. Twin Oaks is a small town. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows everyone's business.”

She shook her head. “That's not what I mean. Tell me you didn't think I was a stuck-up snob. Tell me that you weren't dreading spending every day with me at the library. Tell me you didn't think it would be a total drag.”

She kinda had me there. “Truth?”

“Absolutely. Truth,” she replied.

“You've never been part of my crowd, so I wasn't sure what to expect. And I'm not…” Okay, this was getting personal, but hell, we were in the middle of something that felt big. I had to be honest. “I'm not the guy I used to be. I'm not one hundred percent. Not after the accident, and that's been kind of hard to deal with.” I was quiet for a few moments. “I was nervous to be around you because I thought you would think I was just another loser, you know? Some metalhead with scrambled brains and looking at a road leading nowhere. Not even Nathan knows…”

Her hand crept across the table, and she covered my fist. She was warm. And soft.

And when I glanced up, the look in her eyes took my breath away. Like literally. I couldn't breathe.

That's what this girl did to me.

“What doesn't Nathan know?” she asked. It took a bit for me to push away the lump in my throat. For me to be brave enough to share. I don't think I'd ever been this freaked out by a conversation before.

“For as long as I can remember, music has been everything to me, Everly.
Everything
. It kind of defined who I was. Who I want to be. And I'm scared. Nathan's expecting me to come to New York this fall, and I don't think I have what it takes anymore.” I looked away, chest tight. “Jesus, I haven't played in front of anyone since our last gig. I'm afraid to, because I screw up. A lot. I forget things. Play the wrong notes, screw up the lyrics. It really sucks to be seventeen and to know that the one thing you're good at, that thing that is your dream, is gone.”

“Then maybe you need to find some new ones,” she said so softly that it took a moment for her words to sink in.

“But what if I don't want a new one? What if I can't get past this?”

She stared at me for so long that my vision began to blur and that annoying tic in the back of my head began to press in hard.

Everly pushed her chair back and stepped around the table until she was beside me. Until she was kneeling on the floor. Again, this girl surprised me. We were in the middle of a restaurant.

“Then make it work,” she said, reaching for me.

I met her halfway, her mouth close to mine. “When you say that, it sounds easy,” I murmured.

Her hands were on either side of my face, and I couldn't look anywhere other than into her eyes.

“It kind of is, Trevor. You have two choices. You can accept the way things are without trying to change them, or you can do everything that you have to do to get to where you want to be. Where you're meant to be. It might be a different version of what you wanted, but that's okay. We're kids. We're supposed to adapt.” Her mouth grazed mine. “I'll help you,” she whispered.

I would have scooped her into my arms and kissed her until I couldn't breathe, but someone cleared their throat and Everly began to giggle. She looked up at the waiter, but I couldn't take my eyes off her. For one perfect moment I saw the girl who completed me.

But then her expression wavered, and she slowly stood up, her eyes on the street behind me.

“Everly?” I followed her gaze, but there were so many people in the street heading down to the river for the fireworks that I wasn't sure who she was looking at.

“Everly?” I asked again, standing up beside her.

“I…I have to go,” she said hoarsely.

What?

I barely had time to drop enough cash on the table to cover our bill and follow her out into the crowded street. By then, big fat drops of water were falling from the sky, the kind that splashed back up at you when they hit the ground. Everly was just ahead of me, and when she glanced back, I saw what was inside her. I saw it clear as day.

Hurt. Confusion. And fear.

It was the part of her that was broken, and it made me crazy to know that someone was responsible for it. I glanced at the hundreds of people around us with only one question in my head. Who could it possibly be?

Chapter Twenty-two
Everly

It was raining. Of course it was raining. My whole world was about to freaking explode, and we wouldn't want the sun shining down on that, now would we? Nope. Just doom and gloom.

I wiped at my eyes and tried to see past the gray mist, but it was no use. Where was he?

By the time I reached the opposite side of the street, the crowd had thinned a bit, and I turned in a full circle, eyes darting everywhere, but again I came up with nothing. How can someone vanish like that? He was nowhere. And maybe he'd never been. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I was like the crazy lady who sat at the park sometimes, talking to ghosts that only she could see.

Maybe I hadn't seen him leaning toward another person. Maybe I hadn't seen his arm around that someone else. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

“Hey, Everly. Hold up.”

Trevor strode toward me, cutting through the crowd, his eyes heavy with concern. I saw it there, and it made me more emotional than I already was. This was all so wrong and not the way I'd thought our night would be. Why had we come here?

“Everly, what's wrong?”

I shrugged, a small pathetic sort of thing, but I knew that if I tried to talk, I'd start to cry. Emotional crier. That was me. My throat was so plugged that I knew it would be a big ugly cry too, the kind that you don't want the guy you're hung up on to see.

Trevor's arms slid around my shoulders, and the next thing I knew, my nose was pressed up against his shoulder.

His T-shirt was damp from the rain, but his skin was warm and I felt his heat through the fabric. It felt so good to just be there, in his arms, taking in his warmth and strength. I don't know how long we stood there, the two of us entangled in each other's arms, but I do know that when I finally pulled away, my face was wet and it wasn't from his clothes.

“Can we just walk?” I managed to say.

His hand engulfed mine, and we followed the crowd toward the Mississippi where there were supposed to be fireworks. Fireworks that I'd been looking forward to. Fireworks I no longer cared about.

Where
was
he?

I craned my neck, eyes searching and searching. I suppose I should have asked myself what I was going to do if I actually ran into him, but at the moment, I wasn't doing the question thing. I was just
doing
. I was reacting.

“Everly.”

I was reacting badly, because I knew that I was going to cry again. Dammit.

“Hey.” Trevor's hand was underneath my chin. “What's going on? Why is the sad girl back? What happened?”

I stared up into eyes that I could lose myself in. Eyes that made me believe I could finally unload some of the burden. Did I do it? Did I trust Trevor with my secret? I exhaled and lowered my gaze, staring at the stubble on his chin. It was easier than the eyes. So much easier.

And eventually my heart slowed enough for me to speak.

“There's been stuff going on at home.” My eyes squeezed shut on their own, and I saw it again. The back of his head. The way he tilted to the left when he was listening. His familiar shoulders. His favorite blue shirt.

All the pain and anger and disappointment that had filled me for the last year threatened to come crashing down like tidal waves slamming against the rocks. It was big and painful and raw, and I knew that if I let it take over, I would break down completely. Right here in Baton Rouge on the Fourth of July.

Awesome.

So I fought it. I fought it with every scrap of strength that I had, and finally I managed to get some more words out, but none of them made any sense.

“Things with my parents. I heard a phone call. My mom, she took pills, and my dad is lying to all of us.” Trevor squeezed my hand but remained silent. “I thought I saw him here with someone.” My voice faded to almost a whisper. “Someone who isn't my mom, because my mom's in another state, visiting my uncle.”

We were just inside the alley, so the noise from the street was muted a bit, but my heart was still pounding so hard that it didn't matter. Everything was loud and noisy. Everything hurt. My heart hurt.

“Maybe it wasn't him,” Trevor finally said, sliding his arms around me again. “Everly, there's, like, thousands of people here. You might have seen someone who looks like your dad.”

Doubt crashed in hard. Maybe Trevor was right. Dad was always going to New Orleans, not Baton Rouge. Maybe I was just seeing things because I wanted to see them. Broadcasting or whatever they called it.

“Can we just keep walking?” I asked.

“Sure.” Trevor's hand slid back to mine. “Whatever you want.”

We continued down the street and eventually ended up near the banks of the Mississippi. I kept glancing around, my eyes constantly searching, but I didn't see my father. Was I relieved? Kind of. Disappointed? Not sure. Probably a bit of both.

“Hey, we don't have to stay for the fireworks,” Trevor said. “It's your call.”

“What do you want to do?”

He smiled and kissed my cheek. “I want to do whatever is going to make sad girl go away.”

Trevor moved so that he was in front of me. His hand still held mine, and I glanced down, reading the tattoo along his knuckle.
Strength.
That's what he'd said the symbols meant. Or was it…

I ran my thumb across his skin. “Which one is this?”

“Courage,” he answered.

Courage.

I traced the symbols on his other hand.
Strength.

“I want to get a tattoo,” I blurted.

“What?” He was smiling now. “You're crazy. You don't just get a tattoo. I mean, I guess some people do, but ink is personal. Ink means something, you know?”

“So you don't think I'm cool enough to get a tattoo?” I don't know if I was annoyed or hurt, but I was something.

“I think that a tattoo on any part of your body would be very, very cool.” His hand grazed my shoulder and then up along my neck. “Like right here,” he murmured following his fingers with his mouth. “But it needs to be right. It needs to be you, and well, until you turn eighteen, you'd need your parents' permission anyway.”

Oh. Right. Downer.

“Do you want to go back to the cottage?” I asked. The rain had stopped, but still, I was done with this place. Done with Baton Rouge. The only place I wanted to be right now was with Trevor back at the cottage, preferably under the covers.

“Like I said, I'm up for whatever you want to do.” His tone was teasing, but the look in his eyes was anything but. The look in his eyes told me that he was as affected by this connection that we had as I was.

I thought of his tattoos. Strength. Courage.

Maybe it was time for me to stop living a life that was a lie. To have the courage to stop hiding behind the secrets and sins of my parents and worrying about what everyone else thought. Maybe it was time for me to just be me and to let myself experience the things that I wanted to experience without any of the guilt. Without trying to be someone other than me.

I wanted to be with Trevor. I wanted to kiss him and touch him and see him. I wanted to experience all of him.

Could he see that in my eyes? Did he know?

“Let's go,” I said before he could change his mind, or maybe it was more like before I lost the courage that I'd just gained and changed mine. I tugged on his hand, but instead of following me, he kind of stumbled to the left.

“Shit,” he said roughly. “Hold on.”

He looked up at me, and I knew that something was really, really wrong. “Trevor?”

But he was shaking his head, and oh God, his eyes were wonky. I was scared out of my mind, so I couldn't imagine what he was feeling.

“Trevor!”

He bent over, hands on his knees, and the fear in my gut shot up so fast and so hard that I thought I was going to be sick. The crowd around us suddenly moved back, like they knew something was about to happen. Like there was a disease among them and they didn't want to touch it.

He glanced up one more time, and I barely managed to grab him before he pitched forward. He half landed on me and the wet muddy grass, but I had him.
I
had
him.
His body was shaking, his hands twisted, and I shouted for someone to call 911. I tried to remember what Mrs. Henney had done in the library.

Nothing. She'd done nothing.

So I did the only thing that I could do. I held him and tried not to cry, pushing his hair out of his face and trying to protect him from the crowd that had gathered. I didn't want them to see. Didn't want them to be anywhere near him.

I kept shouting “move back” until my voice was hoarse, and then someone shouted that the EMTs were on their way. Okay. I could do this. I could hold on until they got here. But it seemed that the minutes were hours, and when I felt a hand on my shoulder, I wrenched back, ready to fight or I don't know, do something, but it was a uniform.

They were asking questions, and some of them I knew, others I didn't. I told them about Trevor's brain injury and the seizure he'd had a few weeks earlier. They asked about medication, and I thought of the small bottle I'd seen at the cottage, but again I wasn't sure. They wanted to know where we were from and where his parents were, what his blood type was, his age, any other pertinent medical history.

He was a boy I liked. A boy I thought that maybe I was falling in love with. I knew that and not much else. Pretty pathetic.

And then they said they were taking him to the hospital.

By this time Trevor was coming out of it, but nothing he said made any sense, and that terrified me. Alone and afraid, I scooped my cell from my purse and hit the first saved number.

When he picked up on the second ring, I could barely speak. My teeth were chattering, and I was shivering so badly that I nearly dropped my cell. “Dad, are you in Baton Rouge?”

There was a long pause, and by this time I was crying again. I was crying so hard that I could barely see, and I scrubbed at my face, tearing hair from my eyes as I tried to keep up with the EMTs.

“Everly, are you okay? Where's your mother?”

But I wasn't okay. I was so far from okay that I didn't think I'd ever find my way back. “No, no, I'm not. I'm in Baton Rouge, and I need you.”

“Calm down.” He didn't hesitate, and his warmth crept through the phone. “Tell me exactly where you are, sweets. Everything is going to be all right.”

“I'm down near the river, by the Buffalo Bakery. They're taking Trevor to the hospital, but I can't ride in the ambulance and I don't think I can drive and I think he just had another seizure and I don't…I don't know what to do.”

“I'm less than a minute away, Everly. Hold on.”

And he was. His warm arms were around me, and he gathered me in close, murmuring things I couldn't really understand. By this time I was nearly incoherent, so I didn't take the time to ask the questions. Or wonder about the fact that I spied Kirk Davies, his old college friend, watching us from a few feet away.

I would wonder about them, but those things could come later.

BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
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