Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 8Jessica Sorensen
“Why’s that your job? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?”
“Still … That really isn’t fair,” she says, sounding deeply perplexed. “My parents aren’t that great at all, but they’d never make me pay their rent for them. And they shouldn’t. No parent should do that.”
“I know that.” I really do. And I’ve tried to talk to my mom about this many, many times, about her stepping up and taking care of herself. She always says she will, but after years of being the sole provider, I’ve given up on her ever changing.
“You could always move in with me,” she suggests. “I’m going to need a roommate, anyway, when Luna moves out.”
As shouting echoes from outside, I push from the bed and pad over to the window. “Since when is Luna moving out?”
“Well, it’s not official. But she and Grey have been talking pretty seriously about moving in together.”
I pull back the curtain and peer out the window. “Really?” I scan the parking lot and spot a younger couple who lives three doors down standing near a trunk. They’re screaming in each other’s faces, the girl enraged because she thinks the guy cheated on her. I have flashbacks to the many times my mom was involved in a similar scene. “Isn’t that moving a little quickly? And they’re so young.”
“Yeah, but they’ve been dating for over a year, so I don’t think it’s that weird. Besides, they pretty much live together, anyway, either here or at Grey’s. At least when they get their own place, they can have some alone time. And I won’t walk in on them doing it on the couch again.”
I snort a laugh. “Holy shit. You walked in on them?”
“Yeah. Didn’t I tell you about that?”
“Oh, my God, it was so awful. Although, I think Luna was more embarrassed than anyone.”
“She gets embarrassed pretty easily, doesn’t she?”
“So do you,” she accuses. “In fact, sometimes, you’re worse than her.”
My pulse accelerates as the couple starts shoving each other. “I am not. I rarely get embarrassed.”
“With normal stuff, yeah. But when anything sexual gets mentioned or implied, you totally start blushing.”
“You’re so full of shit.”
I contemplate whether or not to go outside and break up the fight. They’re just pushing each other right now, but that’s how fights usually start, and things can quickly escalate, something I’ve seen happen a hundred times.
Before I can arrive at a decision, they abruptly stop shoving each other, and their lips collide in a deep, passionate kiss.
Yep, I’ve seen that happen before, too.
As the guy pulls back to peel the girl’s shirt off, right there in the middle of the parking lot, I look away, my cheeks warming.
Okay, maybe Wynter is right about me. Maybe I do get embarrassed by sexual stuff. I mean, look how I reacted last night. How I manage to work where I work is beyond me. Then again, I know what the alternative is if I don’t.
“It’s okay, though,” Wynter says with a laugh. “Once you start having sex, I’m sure you’ll grow up a bit.”
“Oh, whatever,” I retort. “Don’t act like that.”
“Like you’ve had sex.”
“I’ve come closer than you.”
“So what? That doesn’t make you more grown up than me.” I move to let the curtain fall forward then pause as a figure standing in front of the abandoned motel across the way catches my attention.
At first, I assume it’s a random junkie waiting to buy drugs since that’s what the motel is notorious for, but the person is decked out in all black with a hoodie over their head and sporting boots that look too pricey for a crackhead to afford. At least the ones that live around here. Plus, a shiny Mercedes is parked behind them, like the car I saw last night that seemed completely out of place.
An uneasy feeling churns in the pit of my stomach as I note the person’s gaze is aimed at the front door of my apartment. Shit, Mom, what did you do this time? Sell drugs? Prostitute? Screw some rich guy over?
The person suddenly turns toward my window, and I instinctively crouch down. Maybe I’m overacting, but over the years, my mom has gotten herself into quite a few predicaments when she pissed the wrong person off. I can’t count how many times she’s warned me to lay low for a while and not answer the door.
I wish I could call her and find out if this has anything to do with her, but after losing three phones in less than a month, I couldn’t, and didn’t really want to, buy her another one.
“Oh, Willow,” Wynter singsongs through the receiver. “Whatcha thinkin’ about?”
I put the phone up to my ear. “Finals,” I lie.
“You sure?” Amusement laces her tone. “Because I was thinking maybe you were thinking about sex.”
I sit down on the floor and stretch out my legs. “Why would you think that? Especially after you implied that I get embarrassed over anything that has to do with sex, you know, because I’m a virgin and all.”
She chuckles. “So what if you get embarrassed? That doesn’t mean you don’t ever think of having sex. I know you have before.”
“Maybe a couple of times,” I admit, refusing to tell her the details.
“And I bet I can guess who was around you those couple of times.” Her insinuating tone makes me frown.
“No one, in particular, was around.” I recline against the wall and cross my legs. “But please, by all means, explain who you think has me all hot and bothered, because I’m ninety-nine percent sure that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Well, he’s tall with messy blond hair, likes soccer, and is kind of rebellious when he wants to be, at least to his parents and the teachers and telling the man to go fuck himself. He prefers getting high at parties instead of shitfaced, but he’s not a pothead, just a dabbler for relaxation purposes. He loves playing the hero, although he’ll never admit it, at least to a certain girl he’s known since grade school. Everyone else he couldn’t care less about. He also can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but you’ll never agree with me.” She gives a lengthy pause. “Hmmm … What else am I forgetting …? Oh, yeah, and his name rhymes with Shmeckett.”
“That’s not funny.” I squirm uncomfortably as images of last night wash over me and my skin tingles all over. “Beck doesn’t make me think about sex.”
“Yeah, right. You’re such a liar,” she states amusedly. “I can see it in your eyes every time we’re around him—well, that’s how you’ve been for the last year or so. But you’ll never admit it, so I don’t even know why I brought it up.”
I fidget with the sleeve of my shirt. “Beck is just my friend—my best friend. No offense.”
“None taken. He’s a way, way better friend than I am, anyway.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means he’d do anything for you, which is exactly what he does every chance you give him.” A splash of bitterness creeps into her tone and makes me question the underlying reason for why we’re having this conversation.
Does Wynter like Beck and is jealous of our relationship? It’s not the first time the thought has crossed my mind, and Ari suggested once that he thinks Beck and Wynter bicker all the time because of sexual tension. Them getting together would make sense. They both come from wealthy, well-respected families, and they share a lot of common interests, are very social, and don’t spend their nights with their ass hanging out to make extra cash.
Yep, perfect together.
And I should be happy for them, yet my stomach burns with nausea, or maybe that’s jealousy.
“Because he’s a good friend.” I force the unwanted thought from my head. “And if you were, too, you wouldn’t be talking about this.”
“Well, I think we already established that I wasn’t the best friend, so I’m going to go ahead and say what I’ve been dying to say for the last few months.” The humor dies in her tone, shi
fting to seriousness. “I think Beck—”
“Wynter,” I warn.
“—is in love with you!” she shouts over me.
I want to open the window and chuck the phone outside to escape this conversation. But I can’t afford to replace my phone.
“He does not. At least, not like that.” Does he? Do I want him to?
I shake my head. What the hell is wrong with me?
“What do you mean, like that?” The humor has returned. She’s totally enjoying my discomfort.
“Like … like love …” I push to my feet and pace the short length of my room.
Love? I don’t even know what love is … do I?
Beck’s face appears in my head: his smile, the way he touches my nose to get me to smile, the way I always seem to be able to smile around him.
“Beck and I are just friends,” I announce stupidly, knowing my very lame argument will never win against Wynter’s mad skills. Seriously, the girl can get her way by snapping her fingers.
“If that’s what you have to tell yourself, then go ahead. But one day, it’ll catch up with you.”
“Catch up? How can something like that catch up with me?” I feign annoyance when really, I’m freaking out.
Maybe it has already caught up with us. Ever since that kiss, our friendship has been bumpy, off balance, and flaming with heat. Awkward moments keep occurring, like when he grazed his knuckles across my thigh last night or every time I stare stupidly at his lips. Or when we lay in bed together, grinding against each other …
“You really want to hear my theory?” Wynter’s cautious tone should scare me since she normally doesn’t give a crap about what she says.
“Um … I don’t know …” I bite on my thumbnail, uncertain how to respond.
“Well, I’m going to tell you, anyway.” She gives another drawn out pause, either to build dramatic effect or offer me a chance to back out. “I think that one of these days, the sexual tension is going to become too much, and you guys are going to end up screwing each other’s brains out.”
I stop at the foot of my bed and sink down on the mattress. “Trust me; that’ll never happen.”
“If you say so.”
“I have self-control, you know.”
“Ha! Implying that you have self-control means you’ve thought about it.”
“I have not,” I gripe. “So stop saying this shit.”
“Girl who wants to screw Beck.”
“Oh, my God, I think I’m going to pierce my belly button,” she cries out through her laughter.
I roll my eyes. “You so are not. You just didn’t want to argue with me anymore.”
“Maybe, but maybe not,” she teases. “Maybe I’m going to change my whole preppy girl image and become you. I’ll even get a tattoo.”
“What do you mean, like me? I don’t have any tattoos.”
“But you have a lot of piercings.”
I trace my finger along the multiple earrings lining my ear. “Just in my ears.”
“And in your belly button.”
“Yeah, only because of you.”
“Hey, you didn’t have to accept the dare,” she points out. “And you could’ve taken it out.”
“I didn’t really want to,” I admit, lifting the bottom of my shirt to peek at the diamond glistening above my belly button, “after going through all that pain.”
She laughs mockingly. “That’s so not the only reason you kept it in.”
“What are you getting at? I’m sure you’re getting at something.” I lower my shirt then rest back on my elbows. “You always are.”
“Of course I am. What’s the point of life if you’re not getting at anything?” she asks with a seemingly out of place sigh. “But, anyway, all I was suggesting is that maybe, like our dear, sweet Beck, you have a bit of a rebellious side.”
“I do not,” I protest, probably sounding more offended than I should. “I’ve never done anything rebellious in my entire life.” Then again, my mom has never cared about what I did, so how would I ever rebel?
“Maybe you have a secret dark side, and the piercing is just a subtle way of showing it.”
Anxiety stirs in my chest like a sleeping beast ready to awake and attack me. Beck said something similar last night about going to the dark side. Am I that obvious? If so, I worry over what else they’ve noticed about me lately.
“So, quick question. When are you coming back from New York?”
“Why? Are you planning on throwing me a welcome home party?” she jokes. “Or do you just miss me that much?”
“Of course I miss you,” I say, relieved she didn’t remark at my very noticeable subject change. “Even if you are a pain in my ass.”
“Aw, I love you, too, Wills,” she replies dryly. “And FYI, you’re a pain in the ass, too, which is why we’re such good friends.”
“Yeah, maybe … But seriously, when are you coming back?”
“I fly back Saturday afternoon. Why? What’s up?”
“It’s nothing.” I blow out a loud exhale. “Beck’s just having a party on Friday and is making me go. And I hate the idea of going alone.”
“Well, you won’t be alone. Beck will be there.” Again, a hint of bitterness enters her tone. “And Ari and Luna and probably Grey since the two of them are attached at the freakin’ hip 24/7.”
“They’ll be back from their road trip by then?” I tense when I hear a knock on the front door.
“They should be,” she says. “You can always call them and find out.”
“Okay, I might do that.” I push up from my bed as the knocking grows louder and tiptoe out of my room and to the front door.
“Or you could just go solo,” she continues, “so you and Beck can finally hook up.”
A nervous exhale trembles from my lips as I lean in to peer out the peephole. “Don’t start again.” A relieved sigh gushes out of me at the sight of Beck standing outside. “Hey, I have to go. Beck just showed up.”
“Of course he did,” she says. “He can barely stand to be away from you for more than a day.”
“He’s just here to help me.”
“Oh, I bet he is. Just make sure to call me after it happens.”
“First off, I’ll never call you right after the first time I have sex.” I wrap my fingers around the doorknob. “And second, Beck and I are never going to have sex. Trust me; he doesn’t even want to have sex with me.”
A voice in the back of my mind cackles with laughter.
“What if he did, though? Would you do it?”
“You totally just hesitated—”
“No, I didn’t.” Did I? “And why are you so obsessed with this?”
“I’m not. I’m just having fun.”
“Well, can we please drop it?”
“Fine,” she surrenders. “I’ll let you off the hook … for now.”
“Gee, thanks. How very kind of you.”
“You’re welcome,” she quips. “Talk to you later.”
“Bye.” I hang up and open the door with a smile on my lips. My relief instantly shifts to confusion, though, as Beck rubs his hand across his mouth, attempting to conceal a grin. “What’s up with all the smiling?”
He rolls his tongue in his mouth. “Why is that weird? I smile all the time. In fact, it’s kind of my MO.”
“True, but still …” I eye him over warily. “You think something’s funny, but I can’t figure out what.”
“Yeah, maybe, but trust me; it’s probably better you don’t know.” He bites down on his lip hard and stuffs his hands into the back pockets. “So, are you ready to tow your car back?” His gaze scrolls across the plaid pajama shorts and long-sleeved top I’m wearing, leaving a trail of heat across my skin that warms every part of my body. “You’re still wearing your pajamas.”
“Yeah, I’ve been lazy this
morning, probably because someone spoiled me last night and made me sleep so well.” I bite down on my lip. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.
A pleased smile lights up his face. “Good. I’m glad I could help. And you should do that more often.”
“Be lazy?” I suddenly become very aware of how trashed the place is and that he can probably see the mess.
He nods, giving me that look I can’t quite figure out. “You need more rest, princess. You’re always so tired because you overwork yourself.”
“I’m fine,” I lie. “It’s nothing I haven’t had to handle before.”
His gaze fastens on mine. “That’s what I’m afraid of. And sometimes, when you handle too much, you eventually break.”
I know what break he’s referring to: the nervous breakdown I had my senior year when I was trying to juggle three jobs, school work, taking care of my drug-addict mom, all while applying to colleges.
“I’m fine. I promise.” I cast a glance across the street, not knowing whether to be relieved or unnerved the person is no longer there.
Beck inches toward me and leans in, lowering his voice. “No, you’re not.” He gestures at the trashed living room behind me. “You shouldn’t have to handle this. You never should’ve had to handle it.”
He smells so good, like cologne and soap and everything that calms me, and I nearly lean into him, grasp his shirt, hold on for dear life, and never let go …
“I know,” I say, making myself stay put. “But there’s not much I can do about it.”
He stares me down with determination. “Except walk away.”
I fiddle with the bottom of my shorts. “I can’t just bail out on her … Could you imagine what would happen if I did? She barely survived my dad walking out.”
He hooks a finger underneath my chin, forcing me to look at him. “I know you worry about your mom, but you can’t spend the rest of your life taking care of her and letting her drag you down. There has to be a point when you say enough is enough, or she’s going to destroy your life.”
“I’ll be fine.” Won’t I?
Sometimes, I wonder how fine I’ll be three years from now … if I’ll graduate from college like I plan to or if something will show up and ruin that plan. That’s one of the things I learned growing up in such an unstable home life: anything can happen in a heartbeat and dropkick the stability out of the ballpark, like when my dad left or when my mom decided to try heroin for the first time a year ago. She’s never been the same since, and the chaotic madness in our life increased.