Authors: Katja Millay
Tags: #teen, #Drama, #love, #Mature Young Adult, #romance, #High School Young Adult, #New adult, #contemporary romance
“Do you play?” I ask, because she’s never mentioned it.
“No,” she says. It takes her a second to look up at me because she’s still staring at the keys. “Not even a little.”
When I crawl into bed with her later, it doesn’t matter how huge the mattress is. I’m not completely brain dead. I know that this is a monumentally bad idea with repercussions written all over it. But she’s right. It’s just nice not being alone. And the couch is hellishly uncomfortable.
“Is it just me, or is this really strange?” she finally asks after about twenty minutes of awkward silence, because neither of us is sleeping.
“It’s not just you,” I agree.
“Do you want me to go?” she asks.
“No.” I don’t even need to do anything with her. Not that I don’t want to, because I want to touch her more than I probably should. But it really isn’t that. I just like her here.
She reaches over and finds my arm, just below my shoulder, and follows it until she reaches my hand. It reminds me of the way she touched the piano keys earlier and I can feel the trail her fingers leave all the way down my arm. There’s a comfort that wasn’t here a moment ago. Then, without a word, she curls up next to me and that’s how we fall asleep. Her hand in mine. Together.
On Wednesday in art class, Clay Whitaker shows me the portfolio he’s been working on and I want to hit him. He’s always updating, adding, deleting, based on whatever competition he’s entering it in or the college he’s applying to, and then he’ll show it to me, even though I never ask to see it and I don’t know shit about art. I don’t want to hit him for the portfolio itself, but for showing it to me here, in the middle of class, where it’s nearly impossible to keep my face blank. I think it’s a test. I look at Clay watching me, and I know it’s a test.
Every last drawing is of Sunshine. He has her face from every angle. Every emotion I can imagine anyone ever feeling is in her eyes in these pictures. I forgive him for every minute he stole her from my garage.
“Draw one for me.” The words are out of my mouth before I can bitchslap them into submission.
“You want me to draw you?” He’s annoyed or disappointed. I haven’t given him the reaction he was expecting.
“No. I want you to draw her. For me.”
Clay looks a little more pleased with that.
“How?” he asks.
“What do you mean, how?” I sound pissed and I mean to, but it’s me I’m pissed at. I just spilled my guts all over the floor in art class and now he’s going to kick them around a little bit for fun.
“How do you see her? If you want me to draw her for you, it should be how you see her. Not how I see her.”
“You’ve drawn a hundred pictures of her. Just draw another one or give me one of those.” I motion toward the portfolio.
“When you look at her what do you feel?”
“Are you fucking serious? Forget it.” He can kiss my ass if he wants to start talking feelings with me.
“You obviously want it for a reason.”
“I want a picture to jack off to. What do you care?” I keep drawing so I don’t have to look at him, but I’m mutilating the sketch I’m working on. I’ll have to start over, but I don’t care.
“Joy, fear, frustration, longing, friendship, anger, need, despair, love, lust?”
“All of it,” I reply, because I’m all in now whether I like it or not.
“I can have it to you in a couple of days.”
True to his word, Clay walks into class two days later and hands me an oversized a cardboard folder and tells me not to open it until I get home. There’s a part of me that almost hoped he had forgotten or that it was a bad dream and I had never really asked. Then he shows me another drawing he’s added to his portfolio and now I know where Sunshine has been for the past two days.
“You’re obsessed,” I tell him, handing it back.
“Am I the only one?”
“Yes.” He’s looking at me skeptically and I know this was a huge mistake, but it’s one I can’t take back now. “I just wanted a picture. I wouldn’t have asked if I knew you were going to be such a dick about it.”
“Don’t worry,” he says, and for a moment, smug Clay is gone. “I’m not going to tell her.”
I accept this and we don’t speak for a minute during which time my brain leaves my body and deserts me.
“What are you doing tonight?” I ask him.
“You asking me out?”
“Dinner at Drew’s at six.” I’ve officially gone batshit crazy. Drew’s parents are out of town this weekend, but his mom made a ton of food and insisted that we still do Sunday dinner. Then they decided to come home early, so Drew moved it to tonight.
“You’re out of your mind.” Clay agrees. “First the picture and now this? I will not be a victim in whatever self-destruction you have planned.”
“You can stalk the object of your obsession some more.” I tilt my head toward his sketchbook. “Bring Yearbook Michelle if you want.”
“You do realize Drew will shit if Michelle and I show up at his house.”
I’ll take control any way I can get it now. I may not be able to prevent some random psychotic from finding me in some random location at some random time, but I can control what I do to him when he gets there.
I’ve taken enough self-defense classes over the past two years to know that there were several things I could have done that day. I’m no martial arts expert. Not even close. All I really know are a couple of difficult, but seriously awesome takedown maneuvers, along with some key dirty street-fighting moves; but even those may have been enough. I could have gouged his eyes or crushed his windpipe or boxed his ears or kneed him in the groin or employed the always classic gold standard—scream and run like hell. I didn’t do any of those things. Know what I did? I smiled and said hi. Because I was polite. And stupid.
Drew’s driveway is empty when Josh and I pull up. Josh picks up the cupcake carrier—a gift to me from Margot for no particular reason—and carries it in to the house while I follow. I try not to smile, because I’m used to seeing him carrying lumber, so a pink plastic cupcake carrier is something different entirely. Drew and Sarah are in the kitchen where Mrs. Leighton would usually be. I can smell dinner immediately. Italian.
“Josh,” Sarah bites out as soon as we walk in. “Aren’t you supposed to reheat food no higher than three hundred-fifty degrees?”
“It’ll heat faster at four-fifty,” Drew argues.
“It’ll dry out,” Sarah lilts in a sing-song voice. It seems like this argument has been going on for a while. She glances over at me and I get the disgusted look she seems to save just for me.
“Depends on what it is, but yeah, it’ll probably dry out,” Josh says, moving around them to put the cupcakes on the counter. The kitchen is stifling from the heat coming off of both compartments in the double oven and I wonder if the meticulously-piped Swiss buttercream on those cupcakes can survive. My hand didn’t freak out at all while I was doing it, so they look perfect.
“See!” Sarah says in Drew’s face, triumphantly walking over to the oven to lower the temperature. I guess Josh’s word holds when it comes to reheating food as well.
“Suck it,” Drew says.
“Your girlfriend’s here. Ask her.” Sarah smiles overly sweetly at me before disappearing down the hall towards her bedroom.
“I hate her,” Drew says, but he lets the girlfriend comment go.
I look around the kitchen at the number of bowls and dishes littering the countertop. Mrs. Leighton must have known it would end up being more than the four of us because she made enough food for an army.
Within the next fifteen minutes, the doorbell rings four more times. Piper walks in first, dressed in an outfit she must have coordinated with Sarah. She says hi to Drew and Josh before she heads to Sarah’s room without acknowledging me. Her arrival is followed by Damien Brooks and Chris Jenkins. Chris I know from hammer-wielding shop fame. He looks at me awkwardly and says hi. Ever since the hammer incident, he’s tried to ignore me even more. I wasn’t sure that was even possible, but he’s been doing an admirable job. Damien I’ve seen around but never met. He looks at my chest but doesn’t say anything. Chris has a case of beer in each hand. Damien has a twelve pack in his left and a bottle of tequila in his right. Clearly Drew gave them a very different description of Sunday dinner, and now I get why he moved it up to Friday. Of course, I may also have been a little more creative with the invitation I issued to Tierney Lowell in the bathroom a few days ago. When the doorbell rings for the third time, I’m the only one who’s expecting her.
I was in the girls’ restroom at the far end of the foreign language hallway on Wednesday. Tierney must have seen me and followed me in, because she obviously wasn’t using the facilities. When I got done washing my hands, she handed me a paper towel with a gesture so full of menace that I had to respect her, because anyone who can make handing you a paper towel look like a threat, is impressive. Of course, she still hadn’t stopped glaring at me, and I didn’t want to seem rude, so I glared back. It was so completely absurd that I wanted to laugh. It took a serious amount of throat clenching to keep from erupting, but I had invested myself in that particular stare-fest and I don’t like to lose. She obviously had something to say, so I wished she would just get on with it, because she wasn’t going to intimidate me no matter how many rumors I had heard about her: drug dealing, illegal abortions, knife wielding. I even heard she brings glass to the beach.
I didn’t believe any of it and I was kind of hoping she would stop looking at me like I poisoned her grandmother. I really kind of like Tierney and I wish she’d like me too, because to be honest, it would be nice to have a female friend to not talk to sometimes.
“You must know a lot of tricks for him to keep you around this long.” Mystery solved.
. I’d say,
, like I should have gotten it all along, except I couldn’t have known, because, even now, I’m just not seeing it. If she and Drew had, in fact, hooked up like Josh said—and with Drew anything is possible—she doesn’t seem like the type who would be much for sticking around, either. I don’t see Tierney Lowell being the kind of person who’s going to let anyone, much less Drew Leighton, take advantage of her. I so wished I was more in the loop on things because I wanted the rest of that story. Badly.
Crap. I was going to have to write a note. It was rule breaking, but I chalked it up to absolute necessity; life-threateningly unavoidable, because otherwise my curiosity would kill me. I grabbed the notebook she was holding and pulled a pen out of my purse. I decided to jump off a cliff with this one and go for broke because there was only one reason this girl was cornering me in the bathroom, and it was pure, undiluted jealousy.
Do you still love him?
I wrote on the paper and shoved it at her, feeling seriously melodramatic.
She gaped at me, her eyes narrowing and her voice laced with forced venom, “I
She didn’t laugh like it was the most absurd suggestion on Earth, so I grabbed the paper back and scribbled down the invitation.
Bunch of us hanging out at Drew’s Sunday at 6.
That was a logistical note, so it was totally acceptable.
She read it and looked back at me with unveiled skepticism, clearly familiar with the Leighton family tradition. “They do Sunday dinner.”
I shook my head and pointed back down at the note again, hoping that would convince her. I knew she wasn’t totally buying the fact that I wasn’t trying to lure her into some plot involving pig’s blood and public humiliation, but I could tell she was interested, too. I walked out wondering which part of her would win out.
Unlike everyone else so far, Tierney is the only one who waits to be let in. I wasn’t sure she’d show; I shoved another note in her locker yesterday after Drew changed the plans, but I didn’t know if she’d even seen it. When Josh opens the door, she looks almost nervous, standing on the porch, wearing a short denim skirt and two purple spaghetti strap camisoles layered one on top of the other. She really is a pretty girl; she just always looks mad, but maybe that’s just when she’s looking at me.
“Tierney?” Josh asks, because it’s not like he doesn’t know who she is, but he’s certainly wondering why she’s here. I watch to see how he reacts but it’s Josh, and as usual, he gives nothing away. He could have opened the door to two hyenas having sex and he wouldn’t have changed his expression.
I would have pressed him for more details about Drew and Tierney the other day, but he gets weird when I ask questions about Drew, so I figured I’d have to be patient and wait until tonight.
“I was invited,” she says, not wanting to look pathetic, like she just showed up at Drew’s house hoping to see him because his parents were out of town and I feel kind of shitty for putting her in this position. Josh doesn’t say anything else. He just opens the door further and lets her walk in. She catches me watching from the dining room but does nothing more than check out my outfit before heading back to the kitchen. Tierney knows exactly where she’s going in this house.
I try to nonchalantly catch up with her before she gets to the kitchen. I want to see Drew’s reaction. As soon as she walks through the doorless entryway, I hear Damien Brooks yell, “T-Lo in the house!” removing all doubt as to his immense douchery. “What’s up, sexy? Didn’t know you’d be here.”
“Neither did I.” She shifts her attention as Drew returns from putting the rest of the beer in the garage refrigerator.
“Tierney,” Drew says, tamping down his initial surprise.
“Were we expecting you?”
“Your,” she pauses and motions toward me, “she invited me.”
I knew that was coming. Drew walks over and puts his arm around my waist and pulls me up against him. I’m used to his possessive displays by now so I just go with it. Josh’s eyes shift to Drew’s hand around my waist before he walks away.