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Authors: Juliana Stone

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BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
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And how amazing she smelled.

She licked that incredible mouth, and I thought that maybe she was nervous.

“I'm no different from anyone else. My family is no different. In fact, you'd probably be shocked if you knew the truth.” Her voice caught, but she cleared her throat. “We're all hiding something, Trevor. None of us are perfect.”

There was something in her voice, some small bit of hurt that bled through her words, and I couldn't take my eyes off her.

“What are you hiding?” I asked before I could help myself.

She gave a small shrug. “Meet me at the library on Monday and maybe I'll tell you.”

We stared at each other for a long time. How long? I'm not sure, but it was long enough for the swans to get curious and make their way over to our side of the pond. Long enough for small beads of sweat to glisten across her forehead.

And long enough for me to realize that I wanted to kiss her. Like, really kiss her. Skin and tongues and heat. The old me would have made a move, confident of the outcome. But this new me wasn't so sure about anything anymore, so I did nothing.

“Do you want a ride back?” she asked eventually.

“Nah,” I replied. “I think I'm going to hang here for a bit. Pretty sure Mom and Taylor are going to go at it for a while.”

A pause.

“Do you feel like company?”

I couldn't help but smile, and I liked how her cheeks got red when I did. “Only if that company is you.”

She blushed harder, and her eyes moved away as she whispered, “Okay.”

I relaxed back onto the bank, and Everly did the same, her body so close to mine that I felt the heat coming off her skin. I closed my eyes, inhaled her fresh clean smell, and for the first time since I'd woken up, I felt some kind of peace.

Chapter Eight
Everly

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my mother's knee, there in the first row at church, watching sunlight stream in from outside to halo my dad's head as he gave his sermon. The beams were like little pieces of heaven, and I was convinced they came straight from God to bathe my father in his goodness.

Because in my young mind, my father
was
good and strong. He was the guy who hugged me as much and as often as I wanted. Kissed me on the nose and called me his sweets. He was the man who tucked me into bed and read
The
Velveteen
Rabbit
over and over and over again because I asked him to.

My dad was that guy. The man all my friends loved, the man who was bigger and stronger and smarter than anyone else I knew. His voice was love and his eyes were promise.

He was so handsome that a smile or a touch on the shoulder made most women giggle like little schoolgirls. My mom used to tease him about it. She called it the Pastor Factor. And she said that it wasn't just his charisma and charm that filled our church each and every Sunday. It was his ready smile and the way he could make anyone feel special just by looking at them.

She had a point, but I always thought it was my father's voice that drew people in. Like he had some magical quality that hypnotized and cajoled until you couldn't help but agree and say
amen
and sing his praises.

He was good. He was better than good. I'd give him that. And up until a year ago, he had me fooled. The sad thing is that sometimes I wish I was still fooled, because there's something safe about floating through life on a cloud of ignorance. It is, as they say, bliss after all.

Sometimes it felt as if my sanity was hanging on the edge of a tiny little crack, and every day that crack got a little bit bigger. And every day I wondered,
is
this
the
day
that
I'll shatter? Is this the day that I lose it and ruin the perfect lie that is my life?

Turns out Sunday wasn't the day for cracking and spilling. Nope. It had been no different from any other that I could remember. I'd gotten up early, gone for a run, had breakfast with Mom and Isaac, and after a quick shower, got dressed for church. I wore a pale pink skirt and a sleeveless white blouse, my hair pinned back and only a hint of gloss on my lips. Understated and proper, just like the girl I was supposed to be.

Dad always left early—said he needed time alone to go over his sermon—and we joined him half an hour before service began. I played the piano and sang a few hymns. He did his thing, and the people, well, they gave him their love and money and that was that.

But as I sat there beside my mother in the first row and watched and listened as my father talked about forgiveness and acceptance, I felt different. It wasn't just that I felt betrayed and angry—I'd been feeling those things for months and months. No, it was something more devastating to me. I didn't see sunbeams anymore—they'd disappeared along with my mom's bright and easy smile. They'd been replaced by a darkness that seeped deeper into my family every single day, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Forgiveness.

Acceptance.

What. Ever.

I wanted my sunbeams back, and I totally didn't see that happening anytime soon because I knew there were some things that were unforgiveable. Some things that the truth could never fix. And that realization was probably the saddest moment of my life. Considering I was seventeen, what did that say about my future?

So I was still pondering all of that stuff Monday afternoon as I sat in the library waiting for Trevor. Mrs. Henney came by and asked if Trevor was okay. I smiled and said he was fine, aware that the two girls one table over were listening closely. What else could I say? It's not as if I knew anything, and besides, it felt weird discussing Trevor behind his back.

Mrs. Henney hung around a few more moments, as if waiting for me to offer something more, and when it was obvious that I had nothing, she cleared her throat and moved on.

Hailey was on her way home from her camping trip, and she'd texted me at least twenty times in the last half an hour. They were nauseating and super fluffy texts filled with happy faces and the name Link. I was happy that she was so into this guy, but I had to be honest, I was a little jealous as well. How could I not be? The texts. They were unending.

Hales:
do you think love at first sight is real

Me:
no

Hales:
I think it's totally real

Me:
I think lust at first sight is what you're talking about

Hales:
you're wrong

Me:
then why ask

Hales:
because you're my friend and you're supposed to agree with everything I say

Me:
that I am and no I don't

Hales:
wow, you're grumpy

Me:
yep

Hales:
so do you think Link is hot or what?

Ugh. Insta love is annoying.

It wasn't until I read Hailey's last text that I realized I'd been waiting in the library for nearly twenty minutes. I sent Trevor a text—he was super late—and waited another five before scooping up my bag. I was irritated.

I thought of that slow crooked smile and the way he'd looked at me. I was irritated, and—there was no other word for it—I was disappointed. For some stupid reason I thought we'd connected Saturday. We lay beside each other at Baker's Landing for a long time, not touching, but somehow it felt as if I was wrapped up in Trevor Lewis. And that had felt…nice. No. Nice is too easy of a word to describe what it felt like, but for now, I guess it would have to do since I had nothing else.

Tossing my bag across my shoulder, I marched out of the library, wincing when I walked into the sunshine. I checked my phone one last time and muttered to myself as I took off down the sidewalk.

He could have at least called to let me know he wasn't going to make it. That's what you did so as not to inconvenience someone. And that's what I was feeling. Very inconvenienced.

I'd taken maybe ten steps when something tingled along the back of my neck. Some invisible radar that made me hyperaware. Slowly I yanked the buds from my ears and glanced across the street toward the park.

A guy leaned against one of the big old oak trees, hands shoved into the front pockets of his jeans, a bag at his feet. His head was down so he didn't see me, because his hair covered most of his face while his one foot tapped the ground furiously.

Trevor.

I must have said his name out loud, because he raised his head. Or maybe I hadn't said anything at all and it was coincidence.

But as I stared across the street at him, I couldn't deny the little bit of happiness I felt. Chest tight, I waved again and then lifted the hair off the back of my neck.

I felt like I was back in sixth grade, staring across the closet at this boy who was larger than life. A boy whose gravity pull was so strong, it was enough to suck me in.

He lifted his chin as if to say
hey
and gave a small wave.

I could have done one of two things at this point. I could have given him the sort of salute he deserved. You know, the big old bird salute. Or I could let his gravity work its magic and pull me in.

Two guesses as to which one won.

“Everly,” he said, a hint of gruff in his voice.

I'd crossed the street and stood a few inches away, wary of his pull and not entirely sure I'd made the right choice.

“You're really late,” I retorted.

For a moment his eyes dropped, and I felt like a shit.

“Sorry, I just…” His voice trailed off as he stared across the street at the library. “I've been out here for almost half an hour. My dad dropped me off on his way back from lunch, but I just…”

A few awkward moments passed as I watched him, and it was then I knew.

“Mrs. Henney can be a little overwhelming. I get it.”

His eyes shot back to mine, and for the first time since we started this whole thing, I felt as if I was seeing the real Trevor Lewis. Sure, he looked like he had his shit together, but he was scared and kind of messed up, and I was pretty sure he didn't want to talk about what had happened with Mrs. Henney. We both know as soon as she saw him, she'd be all over that.

“Do you want to study at my house?”

I did not say that. What the hell?

His eyes softened, and the way he tilted his head to look down at me had my heart leaping all over the place like a fistful of jumping beans.

“Are you sure?”

No. My dad was home, and being around him was about the last place I wanted to be. Pretending that all was shiny and happy in my world wasn't exactly easy, at least not lately. But pretending in front of a crowd? That would be plain awful.

A slow crooked smile was making its way across Trevor's face, and there went those jumping beans again.

Trevor Lewis might be damaged, but he was also dangerous, and I knew him well enough to know that his smile wasn't exclusive. The power of that smile was legendary. I had to remember that even though a direct result of the power of said smile was a stomach full of butterflies, we were only study buddies. Nothing more.

Today, he was relieved that he didn't have to face his demons. There would be no Mrs. Henney. No one staring or asking inappropriate questions.

I totally got that, and I knew his beautiful smile wasn't one hundred percent for me.

As we slowly headed down the street to my home, I couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like to be the girl on the receiving end of that smile and to know it was all for her.

Chapter Nine
Trevor

Everly's family was a lot different than I expected. For one, her mom doesn't look anything like the woman I remembered from when I was younger. Not surprising. When I was twelve, I wasn't checking out my classmates' mothers because I was more interested in frogging and football than girls.

But I wasn't twelve anymore, and right now it was a fact that Terry Jenkins was hot. I'm not talking “she looks good for an older lady” kind of hot. I'm talking she looked like she could have starred in one of those CW shows that my sister watches. As a mom, of course, but an insanely hot mom.

I totally saw where Everly got her looks.

Her dad seemed like a really nice guy and not overly churchy at all, which was a relief, because the last thing I needed was to be grilled about my family's absence. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and we chatted about football while he grilled up some burgers. Mrs. Jenkins had come in when I was packing up my laptop and invited me to stay for dinner. I said yes, because truthfully, I wasn't ready to go home yet—being around Everly made me feel good—and these days, I'd take some good when I could get it.

When I was with Everly, I didn't think about the word
seizure
or picture contorted freaks in my head. We studied the constitution, debated certain merits, and though I'm sure I skipped words or said some things wrong or backward, she didn't point it out or make me feel like a loser.

I'd been doing that a lot more since Thursday, but the doctor told me that it could happen when I was under stress, and if having a seizure isn't something to stress about, I don't know what is.

Speaking of stress, I was getting the feeling that I wasn't the only one who was dealing with it. Something was off with Everly. She'd gotten real quiet when her mother came home, and a couple of times I'd caught this weird look in her eyes when she was looking at her father, like she was halfway to sad. And halfway to anywhere other than happy wasn't a great place to be. I should know. I'd been halfway to somewhere else for the last year.

“Burgers are ready,” Mrs. Jenkins said as Everly's dad walked in from outside.

Mrs. Jenkins insisted that I sit beside Everly, and after we said grace, her little brother Isaac kept the conversation rolling with 101 questions about music and football and Mustangs. The kid had noticed my dad's car that first day I'd picked up Everly, and like most boys under ten, he had a one-track mind. Now it was cars, but when he got to my age? Yeah. We won't go there.

Isaac asked me at least three times if I would take him for a spin, and each time, I'd told him that the car was in the shop. Technically, it was true. Dad was fixing the carburetor, and I didn't feel the need to share the fact that I had to go six months without another seizure before I'd be able to drive again.

“The salad is great,” I said, nodding to Everly's mother.

She smiled this great big smile, and I sat up a little straighter.

“You're so sweet,” she said, reaching for the wine bottle. “Isn't he sweet, Eric?” She poured herself another glass, took a sip, and then settled back in her chair, eyes on me before sliding to Everly and then back to me.

“The caramelized walnuts and goat cheese are what make this salad a standout.” She giggled and I thought that maybe she'd been into the wine while Pastor Jenkins had been outside grilling up the burgers. “It's always been one of Eric's favorites.” She took another big sip of wine, “You still like it, don't you, Eric?”

A pause. I glanced around the table.

“My salad?” Mrs. Jenkins asked, emphasizing the words as if they meant something other than what they really did. That was the thing about adults. Why don't they just say what they mean?

An uncomfortable silence fell over the room as Pastor Jenkins frowned and took a few moments to answer. “Of course I do, Terry. You're a wonderful cook.”

“Yes,” she said softly, and for one second, I thought she looked as sad as my mom used to look, back when I first woke up. It was fifty percent unsure and fifty percent afraid. “Yes,” she said again. “I should make it more often.”

We ate in silence, though when I say we ate, I mean that Isaac and I dug in with gusto. Everyone else just kind of picked at their food, and I don't think Everly ate more than two bites of her burger.

Pastor Jenkins cleared his throat and looked my way. “So, Trevor. I understand Everly is helping you out with your government exam.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir. I…ah…I need it to graduate.”

“What are your plans after you get your diploma? Everly here has been accepted to Brown.”

Huh. She hadn't mentioned that to me. I shot her a quick look, but she was staring at her plate as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.

“I plan on heading to New York, sir.”

He shook his head. “Please, call me Eric. What's waiting for you in New York?”

“Music,” I replied. “There's a liberal arts college I want to go to, but that's not for sure just yet.” Which meant I had no idea if I could do college.

His eyes softened a bit. “You've had quite a year. Your parents must be proud of how you're handling things. Working hard, moving on. Chasing your dreams.”

I'm not sure if
proud
was the exact word I'd use to describe what my parents felt about my situation.
Relieved
would be a better choice. Grateful even better.

“They had it way worse than me.” The words came out before I could stop them, and Pastor Jenkins gave a knowing smile.

“There is nothing more stressful for a parent than feeling helpless because your child is suffering.”

I couldn't be sure, but I thought that Everly snorted when he said that. A quick glance to the side told me she was still more interested in picking at her burger than eating it. Maybe I was hearing things.

“Trevor.” That was Mrs. Jenkins again. “Am I mistaken in thinking that you enjoy singing as well as playing the guitar?”

“I…”

My brain rolled back to this morning when I'd grabbed my Les Paul and tried to run a few scales. They sounded like crap. I'd been too distracted and eventually had given up, playing a few chords over and over again until Taylor screamed at me to shut the hell up. She was still mad and blamed me for the fact that Mom had grounded her an extra two days because of her epic meltdown.

Maybe she didn't deserve it, but then, she'd apparently dropped the f-bomb more than once. My parents are fairly tolerant when it comes to certain things, but the f-word wasn't one of them. The f-word was not allowed. Ever.

“I'm slowly getting my chops back,” I eventually replied.

She was filling up her wineglass again, and I caught the way Everly's bottom lip stretched thin as she stared across the table at her mother.

“Eric used to play the guitar for us, but it's been a long time. Honey, why don't you get out your acoustic and play us a song after dinner? That would be so nice. Don't you think that would be nice?”

“I haven't played in ages, Terry.”

“No,” she answered, rolling out the one word. “No, there are a lot of things you haven't done lately.”

Okay. Now she was saying what she meant, and I was wishing she'd kind of kept that one to herself.

“Jesus,” Everly muttered.

“What was that?” her father asked, though his eyes never left her mother.

“Nothing,” Everly replied. “Nothing,” she said a little louder before turning to me. “Are you done eating?”

There was still food on my plate, so technically I wasn't, but the look in her eyes said that I was.

“Yeah.”

She pushed her chair back. “I'll take you home.”

I had no idea what was going on with her family, but there was a weird vibe I hadn't noticed before. Mrs. Jenkins was reaching for the nearly empty bottle of wine, eyes on her husband, and I could almost hear the f-word falling from her lips. It was like she was daring him to say something.

From my experience, limited as it was, alcohol and weird vibes meant trouble. It was time to go.

I thanked Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins for dinner, and though they protested strongly and said dessert was going to be delicious, I think they were probably relieved when I left. Or at least the pastor was. Everly's mother was already searching for another bottle of “God's juice,” I think she called it.

I scooped up my stuff and followed Everly out to the car, and we took off toward home.

Except we didn't go to my place. She kept driving, and I kept quiet. It just kind of felt right to sit there and not say anything. Eventually she pulled into Baker's Landing and cut the engine.

“Do you want to…” Her eyes were shiny, her voice a little wobbly. I nodded.

“Yeah. We can sit by the water if you want.”

I followed her to the edge of the pond and sat my butt down beside her. I wasn't sure what was going on, but something had happened back at her place, and I could tell that she was upset.

“Hey, are you all right?” I asked, nudging her with my knee.

She took a few seconds, shook her head, and whispered, “No.”

Shit. I wasn't real good at this kind of thing. Most of the girls I'd dated—and not that Everly and I were dating, so this was just a general snapshot of what I knew—but when those girls got all emotional, it was usually because (A) I hadn't paid enough attention to them, or (B) they thought I liked someone else (hell, I can't help it if a guy and a guitar is all it takes for some random girl to send you inappropriate text messages), or (C) I'd just broken up with them.

For each of those scenarios, I was good. I knew what to do, how to act and how to react. But this here? What was going on with Everly? This was new territory, and I wasn't sure of the right protocol. I guess it's because I'd never really been
friends
with a girl. Sure, I'd done the friends-with-benefits type of hookup, but this was so not that. This was something more. Something undefined, at least for me.

Did I put my arm around her? Did I just shut the hell up and listen?

I thought about it for a few moments and opted for the shutting up and listening, because those shiny eyes of hers were now filled with tears and I didn't want to do something wrong and make them spill.

“Remember what I said on Saturday?” Her voice was so soft and low, I had to bend close so that I could hear her. “About the hiding?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“There's stuff going on…stuff that I know…stuff that I think my mom kind of knows but isn't really sure about, you know? And I don't know what to do. About the knowing part. If that makes sense.”

Okay. That was both vague and telling at the same time. She turned toward me and looked so incredibly sad that I couldn't help myself. I reached for her, because I wanted to and because this girl who normally had it together looked more lost and afraid than anyone I knew.

My arms went around her shoulder, and she half collapsed, half crawled onto my lap, her face buried in my neck.

She was warm and soft and hurting. And suddenly I wanted to be the guy she confided in. The guy she turned to. It was hard to explain, but there was this rush of something that settled in my chest. It was tight and emotional and real. I knew it was real because it kind of hurt.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked carefully.

She shook her head and settled in some more, the entire weight of her body sunk into mine. It was a weird time to think it, but the thought crossed my mind that we sort of fit together perfectly.

“No,” she replied. “Can we just stay here for a while?”

Stay here for a while? Everything about this felt good, and I'd stay the whole damn night just to be her guy, the one she needed.

“Whatever you need.”

“You must think I'm the most pathetic girl on the planet.” She moved and glanced up at me.

I reached for a single, solitary tear that had slid from her eye and lay against her cheek. Carefully I wiped it away and shook my head.

“Nope, that's not even close. I think that like you said, you've got some stuff going on. Stuff that you're having a hard time dealing with, and I get that. I've been there. I guess we all get there sometime. It's just some of us get there first and some of us stay there a long time. You need someone right now.”

Her bottom lip trembled and her eyes slid away. I grabbed her chin so that she could see me. Really see me.

“And I'm glad it's me.”

For a few moments neither one of us said anything else, and then she kind of shuddered and melted against me.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

I'm not sure how long we sat there, but it was long enough for me to realize that I wanted to know this girl in a way I'd never felt before. This wasn't about partying and hooking up. It wasn't about sex either (though I'm not going to lie, I'd be all over that if she was willing).

It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn't anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.

So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. Personally I was pretty damn sure that my situation wasn't fixable. In fact, with a seizure, it had gotten worse. But maybe Everly's situation was different, and as I held her and listened to her crying quietly in my arms, I thought that maybe I was the guy. You know, the one who could fix her.

Or at the very least, I thought that maybe I was the guy she'd let try.

BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
10.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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