Authors: Juliana Stone
“That's all right,” Link said, putting his arm around the other girl. “I've got my fishing crap in the back of the truck, and I know I've got lots of spray. So, you girls going to hang with us or what?”
“No,” Everly said.
“Yes,” her friend said.
Everly's eyes darted to mine, and I saw something there but I wasn't sure what it was. “I mean,” she said slowly, “we can or notâ¦it's up to you.”
Was that her way of apologizing for being such a bitch at the library? Did I care? I studied her for a few seconds, because I could see this going one of two ways. Either we were gonna be friends or not. Friends made for a much better summer.
The other option wasn't one I wanted to think about. At least not yet.
“Follow me,” I said with a shrug. “We're parked at the back.”
I guess I was going to find out.
By the time I reached the bottom of my popcorn bag, my cell had pinged at least five times, and my stomach was churning so badly, I thought I might be sick. Not surprising, I'd wolfed down the bag as if I was starving when I wasn't hungry at all. Mostly because I wanted to look like I was at least into the movie. Which I wasn't. At all.
I'd lost my appetite somewhere between the concession booth and here. Trevor hadn't bothered introducing me to his friends, though I suppose after the way I'd treated him earlier, that shouldn't be surprising.
What was surprising was the speed with which Hailey ditched me. That stung. Oh, she'd played the “I'll sit with you if you want me to” card, but I didn't want to look like a jerk. I'd told her to go ahead and hang with Link. I got it. He was super hot. But stillâ¦
So here I sat, on the hood of Link's truck, pretending to watch a movie, with nothing but an empty bag of popcorn to keep me company. Hailey and Link were in the back of the truck, and last time I glanced back, she was stuck to him like glue.
I get that I wasn't great company these days, but still, what was up with that? I snuck a peek once more and sighed, swinging my eyes to the screen but not before catching sight of Trevor.
He was leaning against the truck beside us with a group of kids from school, none of whom I knew all that well, and other than a few curious looks from a couple of the guys, they kept their distance. Some blond girl kept poking Trevor in the ribs and giggling like an idiot. She looked ridiculous.
She looked happy.
And I was just plain old pathetic.
I set the empty bag of popcorn down and fished out my cell phone. All of the texts had come from my dad.
Just back now. Where are you?
Mom must be at prayer group?
be? It's not like he was home, keeping her company.
Call me or text me right now.
Wow. Will do, Captain
The last ping had been for a missed call. Again my dad.
With a sigh, I texted him back because I knew that he'd keep bugging me until I acknowledged him.
At the movies with Hales.
A few moments went by, and then a text came back.
Next time let me know what your plans are. We're going to have a chat about this. Come home right after the movie.
I stared at the text for a few more moments and then shoved my cell back down into my front pocket. Night had fallen and I shivered, putting my hands under my thighs, trying for some kind of warmth.
The drive-in was full, and yet most of the kids here weren't inside their vehicles. They were hanging out in groups like the one beside me, drinking, laughing, hooking up. I spotted several cars and trucks with fogged-up windows and skipped my eyes over them, only to land on a couple a few rows up who were pressed into each other.
It was dark and hard to tell where the girl ended and the boy began. He had her pushed up against the car, his hand buried in her hair, and he was kissing her. He was kissing her like there was no one around. Like they were the only two people in the universe. He was touching her and pushing up against her and I couldn't look away.
Not even when his one hand slid down her hip and rested against her lower belly. It was intimate and it spoke volumes. I guess I was a pervert because I kept watching. Their kiss deepened, and as she tugged on his shoulders, trying to get even closer, I held my breath.
I thought of Jason, a guy I'd dated for a long time. Never had I felt that way about him. So desperate to get close to him. So desperate to connect. To matter.
Something inside me tightened. It swelled and pressed into my chest so hard that it was painful. I was one of probably five hundred kids out here under the stars, and for some reason, I'd never felt so alone.
I tore my gaze away from the couple and tried to focus on the movie, but it was hard because suddenly there were tears pricking the corners of my eyes. God, here we go. Hot, painful tears. Angrily, I wiped them away and jumped off the truck.
I didn't have a plan. I just wanted to get away. I rounded the truck, and Trevor glanced up, a smile on his faceâa smile meant for the blond girlâand for a second I froze, letting the beauty of his smile wash over me.
But it wasn't mine, so I turned sharply, heading the other way.
Hailey called my name, but I raised my hand as if to say
and kept walking. What a joke. I was a joke. My life was a joke.
What the hell was wrong with me?
Trees surrounded the back end of the drive-in, and once I passed the first few rows, I started to run. I didn't stop until my chest burned, and by then, I was deep inside the forest.
It was quiet, and man the quiet was heavy. It was the kind of quiet that felt as if it was alive. It was the kind of quiet you could hide in.
My breath misted in front of me, and I wrapped my arms around my chest, shivering as my eyes adjusted to the gloom. My ponytail had come loose, and hair stuck to the clammy skin at my neck.
If my life was a movie, this would be where the stupid heroine (me), out alone in the dark woods, gets attacked by some deranged madman. I kind of laughed at the thought. If my life was a movie, it would totally suck.
I leaned back against a tree, wishing the tightness, that hard coil of pain and confusion inside me, would just melt away. Maybe if I counted. Maybe if I thought of puppies and rainbows, I'd be fine. Maybe then I wouldn't feel like I was standing on the edge of something that I knew would wreck me.
So I did. I closed my eyes and counted to twenty, and then I started over. I wasn't sure how many times I did it or how much time had passed, but a snap echoed in the dark, and suddenly I knew I wasn't alone anymore.
I knew that voice.
Slowly, my eyes opened. Trevor stood a few feet away, hands shoved into the front pockets of his jeans. His dark hair fell forward across his brow and touched the tops of his shoulders. I saw something sparkle at his ear. A piercing?
“Are you all right?” he asked.
I shrugged and said nothing, afraid to answer because I wasn't sure that I could. That damn lump was still stuck in my throat, and even though I blinked several times, the tears were still there, just waiting for an excuse to embarrass me.
“The movie sucked,” he said quietly. I guess he wasn't going away anytime soon.
I cleared my throat but still said nothing, trying to hold in a shudder but failing miserably. It was damp, and I was cold and more miserable than I'd been in a long time.
Trevor reached for the edge of his long-sleeved Henley, and my eyes widened when he began to pull it up over his head. He wore a T-shirt underneath, but even so, I saw a lot of skin as he raised his arms over his head.
Mouth dry, I didn't know what to say.
“Here,” Trevor said as he moved toward me. “You're cold.”
He stopped just in front of me, so close that I could feel his body heat, and I shivered again. He held out his hand and I hesitated, staring at his shirt, because anywhere other than into his eyes was preferable.
I didn't want him to see what was inside me. I wasn't ready for that.
I reached forward and held my breath when our fingers connected. I swear something passed between us, but I was so emotional that I had no idea what it was. But it was there. And it was electric. Like a shock.
I angled his Henley over my head and slowly threaded my arms through. My chest rose and fell, faster than I'd like, and I kept my eyes lowered as I pulled out my hair. I played with the tangled ends, afraid to look up.
A heartbeat passed. And then another.
“Better?” he asked, his voice low.
I nodded. His shirt was still warm and it smelled like him. Fresh and clean and justâ¦Trevor.
Several long moments passed. Several long moments where the quiet faded away and the crickets made themselves known. In the distance I heard the vague echoes of those at the drive-in, but here in this small patch of sanctuary, I heard Trevor's breathing and my own fast-beating heart.
I knew he was watching me, but I kept my eyes averted, still too afraid to let him see what was inside them. Too afraid that his intense, penetrating gaze would rip apart my defense shield. And that little bit of defense was all that was keeping me from falling apart right now.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
My bottom lip trembled. Shit.
I shook my head and exhaled slowly.
Trevor took a step so that he was beside me, and he leaned back against my tree, hands folded above his head. He glanced up through the branches at the stars that twinkled over us.
I followed his gaze and relaxed into the bark once more, this time with the added barrier of Trevor's shirt. The silence enveloped us, and we both let it. It was just easier somehow, and after a while, that big lump in my throat dissolved and the tightness in my chest faded to nothing.
“There's going to be a blue moon this month.”
Wow. I'm silent all evening and that's my opening line?
“Blue moon?” Trevor pushed off from the tree and stood facing me. I tilted my head slightly so that I could see him better. I knew he was tall, and maybe it was the dark or maybe I was just feeling small and vulnerable, but right now, he looked larger than life. “What's a blue moon?” he asked.
“Every so often, there are two full moons in one month. The second one, that's the one they call a blue moon.”
“That's kind of cool.”
He inched a bit closer, and I found it harder to keep my breaths nice and even.
“I'm sorry about today. I didn't mean to suggest that you had some kind of brain damage or anything.”
Oh. My. God. Brain damage? Could I have been any more insensitive?
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say brain damage.” Oh God. I said it again. “I meantâ¦” Just stop. Right now.
“It's okay, Everly. I know what you mean.” Trevor shifted his weight, but his eyes never left mine. “Is everything okay with you?”
Surprised, I didn't answer right away. I tried so hard every single day to be normal and, at the very least, some sort of version of the old me. Guess I was failing at that too. “Why would you say that?”
He shrugged. “I don't know. You look sad or something.”
“Is it that obvious?”
He moved again. Another inch and now there was only a whisper between us.
“Yeah,” he said slowly. “It kinda is.”
“I'm fine. Just tired.”
“Why do you care?”
“I don't know.” A slow smile crept over his face. “Maybe because I'm a moron?”
I opened my mouth to reply but had nothing, and the two of us stood there for a long time, so close I only had to lean forward and I could bury my face in his chest. And that's pretty much all I was thinking about right now. What he would feel like. Warm. Hard. Alive.
“I can't figure you out,” he said so softly that at first I wasn't sure he'd even spoken.
“Why would you want to?” I blurted.
“I don't know,” he murmured. “Maybe because you're nothing like I remember, and for once, I'm pretty sure that thought has more to do with reality and less to do with”âhe tapped his foreheadâ“the brain malfunctioning.”
“You are.” I blew out a breath.
“You seem the same.”
There was that lopsided smile again. “I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but trust me, Everly, I'm not that guy anymore.”
Slowly he reached for me, and I inhaled sharply when his hand tucked a long strand of hair behind my ear.
“Well, I'm just a girl,” I finally managed to say. “No big mystery here.”
“You have a very different view of yourself from the one that I see.” His tone was light, teasing even, and I relaxed a bit.
“From the whole universe, if you want to know the truth.”
“The whole universe?” I tried to hide my grin but it was hard. “That's pretty big and far-reaching.”
“Yep.” Trevor moved to the side. “Good thing I've got the whole summer to work on it.”
“On figuring you out.”
The thought of Trevor Lewis figuring me out was not only terrifying, it made no sense. I chewed on my bottom lip, curious. “I was such a bitch at the library. Most guys would just blow me off.”
“Most guys like a challenge.”
“I disagree. Most guys like the easy win. The slam dunk. The whole nine yards.”
“I'm not most guys, Everly.” He wasn't teasing anymore. “A year and a half ago, I would have blown you off. I would have told you exactly where to go.” He shoved his hands back into the pockets of his jeans, and I noticed goose bumps on his arms. “Truth?” He shrugged. “Maybe you're right. Maybe most guys would just say screw it. Or maybe I need to pass the government test so badly, I'm willing to spend the summer with a girl who's cold as hell one moment and the next she's talking about ink and Elton John. We're going to be spending the summer together, so we should at least try to get along. Don't you think?”
Panic. I felt it nipping at my toes, clawing its way up my legs until it landed hard in my stomach. So I dug in. “I'm sure your pretty little blond friend won't like that.”
“Is that her name?” I knew exactly who she was.
“Jess is just a girl I know,” Trevor said. “But you'reâ¦” His voice trailed into nothing, and my stomach tumbled again. This time harder.