New draft- not much different

Really not much different, just cleaned up the edges a bit. I keep thinking the ending’s wrong, but I don’t know what about it I don’t like.

Danny’s Short Story
Serena Lommasson

“Instead of the word ‘love’ there was an enormous heart, a symbol sometimes used by people who have trouble figuring out the difference between words and shapes.”
Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival

The morning after Adrian’s mother’s funeral, I all but hated my own parents. Even the dead one, but I couldn’t imagine the reaction I’d get if I told anyone. So I shut my mouth about it and moved on; didn’t even tell the cat, though I’m sure she knew before I did.
I mean, I’d tell everybody in the world I loved my dad, and in some twisted way I definitely did- he was no Glass Castle material- actually, I wouldn’t even know, I never even knew the man’s middle name; nevertheless, I still said prayers every night for him and I always remembered his birthday was May 29th, or 28th maybe- but since my mom died he just kind of….went away. Went away in the middle of the night and got lost, maybe lost on the way back, but lost just the same. And I was fairly young when it all happened; I wasn’t even fourteen, actually, which was the story I stuck to- it all became very symbolic of how well I dealt with the situation, really. I had stories I stuck to that I told everyone if by chance they got curious, but since no one this side of the Atlantic had ever even met her, I was pretty much safe and didn’t need to lie.
My house was empty on Wednesday morning, and for the first time in a while it unnerved me, with all the creaky floors and wobbly banisters- I had the irrational thought the house was going to collapse over me. Penelope, my overfed asshole of a Persian cat, banged the lower kitchen cabinets open and shut, waiting to be fed. My mom taught her to do that, if I’m not mistaken- it seemed like the kind of thing she would’ve done, anyway. My mom never grew up when she was feeling well enough for the job. Penelope, for better or for worse, was more her than any picture or any piece of jewelry or any painting. Penelope liked to make noise, knock things over, and be petted.
I taught Penelope when we moved here that if I pointed to something she could nudge it over if I gave her enough time, so after I few minutes she managed to head-butt a tin of instant coffee in my general direction, and we sat at the kitchen table together, watching the Today show and eating stale Cheerios and cat food, respectively. She meowed to me constantly about the mice I still needed to set traps for in the cabinets, which was probably why she was so fat.
There was always very little dialogue between the humans in our house in Albuquerque. My father, Klaus Ritter, who always spoke very rough English even after living with my mom for sixteen years (and she had never learned a word of German in her life), worked for the postal service from the minute we got off the plane, so he was gone from before sunup to sundown almost every day but Thanksgiving and the odd flu. And I knew he drank pretty heavily, but in the distant way one knew there were spiders in the attic or a war in a country ending in –istan. I would see him sometimes if he woke me by accident early in the morning, and always spoke to me in German, and always kept it to pleasantries, and even more so expected of all these things- always claimed he was late for work and left like a bat out of hell.
I couldn’t describe even him to the cops if they had asked me.
My mom, Maria, hung herself sometime on March 11th. I always found it such an odd little coincidence, being the year of the American 9/11. It was my first grasp on terrorism as a kid.
I know better now.
I found her getting ready for school that next morning, at about seven. I don’t remember reacting very much- well, because it wasn’t a shock. I’d always known something like this was coming, in a really sick way, ill-prepared as I still was. She’d barely gotten out of bed since that last October, and she had even told me I could have her paintbrushes, so it was all but set in stone. I didn’t even wake my dad for a while, I know that much. But I do remember cutting her down. She’d been a lot more weight than I expected, and she thudded to the tile.
Maybe I even dropped her; I was just done. I called the rettungssanitäter (they were like the EMTs in Germany) and made them deal with her.
I made my father send her ashes back to my grandmother, who hadn’t spoken to her since she ran off with my father. There was a card with my last school photo, even.
We left two weeks later to the very day. I don’t think we even sold the house; maybe just gave the deed away. I barely had time or the suitcases to pack anything, but I realized after packing for a few hours that I didn’t want much, and I gave a lot of it away. It was all just stuff. It was all just stuff that pretty much meant nothing by then. So, I had one suitcase: I came to the States with three pairs of jeans, six pairs of boxers, five shirts, and sneakers. And the suit I wore to my mom’s funeral. I also had a box of my mom’s jewelry that I never let out of my sight the whole plane ride: two pearl necklaces, a ring I found for her at a yard sale when I was probably five or six (it was just a plastic mood ring, I realized sadly when I was older, and on top of that stopped working some time ago, but she still held on to it), diamond earrings, and lots of rings all fit tight in a stained glass box my father bought for her. She always said she was very young when he gave it to her. I never knew how young, and never got the nerve to ask.
By the time we moved and I got enough clothes to last me a week and my father found a job, I had gotten very used to watching everything go so very wrong. I’d already seen my mom throw herself down the stairs six weeks pregnant when I was nine, so I had gone threadbare a long time ago.
But no one ever let me forget what was right. I mean, if there were ever people so great at torture, it was the endlessly positive.
So there were undoubtedly days I liked my dad better. Things never got worse with him.
After I did all the dishes (my dad never touched a dirty dish in his life, but I didn’t really mind), I left an over-lengthy message for Adrian to call me. She always hated when I texted her when I didn’t have to; we only texted during school.
I never told her quite how much she meant to me, ever. If I did, though, she’d have thought I was an insane, homicidal, Norman Bates stalker. But she was my sunshine most of the time.
We met in our freshman English class (and Guitar, and Algebra II, but I don’t think Adrian even knew that for a while) during one of those dumb icebreaker things the first day of school. It was really a horrible day; I was having a hard time talking through my accent, and ended up pointing to boxes and getting really frustrated, besides I was only half-unpacked and hadn’t showered in a bit, and we were still sleeping on the floor.
Adrian was the only one in the class with green eyes. I remember that much very clearly. In all three classes. Apparently the percentages for the green-eye gene is particularly low.
Adrian came to sit with me at lunch two days later, and brought along my spitting image, who turned out to be Syd. We ended up truly being nothing alike except we both would’ve done anything for Adrian. But both of us were smart enough to figure out we were gonna need each other if only for some sort of stalemate agreement. But I knew he could have Adrian if he tried harder than me. Jeez, he could’ve had Catherine, and she hid her dad’s gun in her car. I’d seen it.
Adrian asked me to homecoming in October (and I found out Syd was just about to ask her, so I found other ways to class for the rest of the year), and I almost admitted myself into the psych ward just to get some peace. I was stalking her Facebook, I wouldn’t leave her alone; I bought her a corsage and found a suit and even met her dad- I wasn’t sure I was gonna live through that last one.
I would’ve told her I loved her right after that if it was socially acceptable. It’s not, apparently.
December the world found out she was bipolar, exciting as things were before. Actually, there had been little things I’d picked up on, things I remembered way too well from my mom, so when the alleged Big Break took place I wasn’t too terribly shocked. But it was still hard to put on paper that no one had any quick fixes- it made sense in a really sick way, though. She was difficult from day one, so why should this be any different?
Men are usually after girls just like their mothers, I’m told. If that weren’t a bad thing, in this case.
We were in English, 2nd period, when we both saw everything go sour. We’d barely spoken for days, and she never answered her phone if I tried. Her mom had even said to keep an eye on her. I think it was that the teacher was calling on her and she was just zoning out or something really small like that, but when she didn’t answer, this really stupid kid Ethan said some bad joke about Hellen Keller. After that, the whole class, including myself, sat completely still- it was like watching Frankenstein on mute- and watched Adrian all in one fluid motion stand, swing her backpack over her shoulder, and walk over to Ethan’s desk. She shoved his head down on the desk by the back of the neck, told him to go to hell, and spit in his face.
Adrian was gone before anyone knew what had happened.
I don’t really know why, but nobody moved for a few seconds, including Ethan, whose nose was at a ninety-degree angle and bleeding profusely. Finally, I got up, looked at the teacher, spluttering, “You’re not even-“
I took off after her. Everyone let me go.
I’d had to run for a long time to catch up to her; she was across the street from the bus stop when I caught up to her.
I yanked her back from the road on a red light, and slammed her up against the side of a building, fifty feet from a crosswalk. She tried to push me off but I was stronger than her.
“No,” I had said so foolishly, completely breathless and desperate. She tried to push me away with one hand and I pinned both against the building, fighting with her stupidly and cursing at her, tears in my eyes by then. I was still a lot stronger than her. “Don’t…….dare.” I heaved, resorting to holding her back by her hair in my fist, feeling half-manic and futile, and our noses inches from touching. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she bit me. I was almost afraid to be so close to her.
Adrian swore at me breathlessly, and quite creatively, pushing me back and punching at me furiously, but I never moved. I sat her down and we were very quiet for a while, but I never took my eyes off her once, and I made her eat something eventually, and I made her call her mom to say she was all right.
“Everybody knows, Danny.” She said after a while; the first thing she had said in hours.
“Well, I don’t know about that; I knew since the day I met Ethan that he’s a little snot.”
Then, Adrian leaned over and kissed me, really softly, laughing, and I knew I was headed down the worst road I could find- but it was so wonderful and I couldn’t resist; no one could’ve in my place.
We decided that that’s the day we officially started dating- December 1st.
I started painting the pictures for our anniversary two weeks before. I had twenty-eight days and theoretically seven paintings to go. I felt like it was all I was good for- I’d been painting her for a whole year, so I may as well be out about it.
I was always a painter, or pretty sure I was. My mom and I used to paint together when I was a kid, when she felt good. Sometimes all I can ever think about is trying to get her out of bed always promising I’ll stay home and we can go to the paint store today, and watching it not work sometimes, and then waiting for that one day I finally get her back again. I was always hopeful. I can always think when I’m painting.
Adrian’s first painting came out better than I expected; I had even bought spare paper in case they really sucked. My mom found out when I was seven that my perception of the whole red spectrum was completely wrong, so I always made sure to read the color names twice before I use them. Well, I still accidentally painted people with pink hair every now and then. The first one was a portrait of Adrian, sitting in profile. It was the first time I even saw her, actually- I used a stalker picture I took of her- she was sitting at lunch, talking with her friends. Laughing. I painted without the others in there, because they’re whited out in the photo and I couldn’t even remember who was there.
The second one would hopefully be when I found her near the bus, but I was trying to paint her pinned against the wall, and painting dimension like that is harder than it looks, even if you sketch it first. I wanted the look in her eyes. How angry she was. She wasn’t just angry- she was horrified. She was this horrid monster herself. I hoped it turned out good enough for her. I hoped it all did.
I worked for two hours, until I was pretty much painted head to toe. Ian called me while I was painting.
“Hey,” I had said passively, opening up the windows to air out the paint smell. I never noticed it until I finished.
“Hey, do you have guitar picks?”
”Just the three billion you’ve left here.” He laughed. I liked Ian, but in small doses, I think. He could be a smart-aleck, but never meant anything but good for anyone. And the kid could talk to a snail and make conversation. Ian also owed me two grand for fixing some scratches on his dad’s Mustang when he and Dave snuck it out for a weekend, but I don’t mention it; he felt bad for a long time.
With very little preamble, “Hey, you wanna do my Geometry homework, buddy?” He said excitedly, music playing in the background. And maybe Dave was there, too.
“I was gonna check on Adrian in a bit; get Dave to do it. I wanna see how she’s holding up.” Ian got quiet.
“Oh yeah; I-I couldn’t go to the funeral, but we went to the vigil the day after the crash, Danny. It was crazy; you wouldn’t believe how many people were there! II don’t think I’ve ever even met that many people in my life! When you see Adrian, tell her we’re all thinking of her. And we hope she comes back to school soon; Dave said he’ll even catch her up on the Geometry notes.” He added cheerily.
“Did he really say that?”
“He will when I suggest what a good idea it is.” I rolled my eyes, scraping paint out from underneath my nails.
“Whatever you say, powderpuff.”
“Okay, well, tell her we both love her a lot. And you know I’m not just speaking for him.” Ian said moodily.
“I got ya. Hopefully I can get her to come back tomorrow, okay?” He cheered.
“Alright, I gotta go. Love you, bro. See ya.”
It took me a while to find clean clothes and the keys to my dad’s car. He rode the bus to work, has since he got work. It’s this real rusted-out Taurus, and I tried to work on it when I could, but that took cash, which I should’ve gotten from working at the bookstore theoretically, if Manny there didn’t feel like paying me in books I had been wanting. It had four tires, though, so I didn’t complain out loud. My dad was six-foot-three, though, and I already had to push the seat all the way back to squeeze myself in, so I have no idea how he ever fit.
Driving through town (Adrian lived on the east side, I suppose, with the impromptu move), I stopped at the market to find flowers, and I picked up a half-dozen double-claws (Adrian’s favorite; the things kind of grew on me after a while, too), and no one saw me leaving. I accidentally forgot my wallet.
I knocked, “How is she?” I asked James, coming in their front door and passively watching him snatch the flowers from me, not even fighting it.
“Didn’t sleep.” He shrugged putting them in water. “She’s in her room, being a mope. I’m out of moves, kiddo.” I nodded, trying to be understanding. But at least he tried. When my mom died, no one even tried to make me feel better. We just moved away from everything that had to do with her.
“You aren’t gonna take credit for my flowers, are you?” James smiled grimly.
He shot me a look, “Would I take advantage of your ill-gotten gains, Mr. Pricetag?” He waved the $7.99 tag in my face before dumping it in the trashcan.
“Eh, forgot my wallet.” I shrugged.
“Been there, done that. Judy’s gonna get her to go to school tomorrow; she’s about had enough.” I snorted, my hand wringing until my knuckles popped.
“Yeah, I gather patience is her strong suit.”
“Good joke.” James stood arms akimbo in front of the hall threshold, like we learned in psych class, trying to look larger than he is, arbitrarily guarding me from Adrian’s room. He looked more like an overgrown Boy Scout.
“I can stop by and pick her up, you know. Just to get her out of bed and everything.” I looked briefly for a way around him, then realized he wasn’t actually doing it on purpose. He was just nervous as hell.
“That’d be good. She might need to be dragged. She hasn’t really gotten out of bed for a while.”
James paused for a long time, almost staring me down. I stared back, then couldn’t help but look away sheepishly. He stood as close as he could to me without being odd, so close I could smell his aftershave. I think it was the same stuff Adrian bought for me.
“May I-may I see her?” He nodded hurriedly, fumbling out of my way stupidly.
“Go-go right ahead, son.” I nodded quietly, uncomfortable, as he backed away, and he may have even fully left the apartment, but I didn’t pay attention.
In the few seconds before I knocked on Adrian’s door, gathering some sort of haphazard strength, I wondered briefly if I even wanted to go in. If I should’ve. Maybe it was better for everyone if I left right now.
If Adrian hadn’t asked me to come in a second later, I think I would’ve left everyone and never come back, to be quite honest.
“Come in,” Adrian called before I had the chance to touch the door, even. I nudged it open with my foot weakly, smiling at the sight of her. She wore my track sweatshirt and the biggest smile I’d ever seen on a person.
“Hey, sweetie,” She jumped off her bed excitedly, launching into my arms. I caught her with a sharp intake of breath, holding in the smell of her.
“So, we all decided you’re coming back to school tomorrow.” I told her immediately, wiping her still tear-stained cheeks. I set her down, holding her hands in mine, “Deal?”
“But it’ll be Thursday. That’s weird.”
“Get over it. And Ian and Dave already said they’d help you catch up on homework, because we all know mine’s all wrong, right?” She giggled wonderfully, clutching my waist. My breath quivered, holding her tight, quiet.
“Yes, that is right.”
“So, deal?” She nodded once. I held tight to her for a bit more, trying to be as usual what I’m not, what I wish I were, what I should be, what everyone else might be, maybe what I would’ve been if my mom were around. Hell, maybe Adrian’s on the same playing field now.
God, that’s a horrid thought. It sent chills up my spine at the thought, in fact.
“Everything is going to be fine, Adrian.” I said adoringly.
“Okay.” She just said in blind faith.


Ten Years And A Night

“Ten years,” I gulp, kind of dreading it myself. “I want to see you again in ten years. If we’re still miserable, we’ll be miserable together. But you should probably see if you can be happy without me first.” Dan wipes wet crap off my cheek. Shit. Then he’ll know he can be happy without me, I remind nyself. And I think that’s what I want.

He blows air out his mouth hard, “Ten’s a big number. I don’t want to wait that long. How about five?”

“Don’t try to talk me down like that. In ten years we’ll be different, everything will be different, and maybe we’ll both still be here. It’ll be okay.”

Dan whimpers, “You don’t know that, Annie. We could both be dead tomorrow. Gone. Out. No ten years. Nothing.” He says in a soft voice, a soft satin voice begging.

“I could never have you then, Annie.” He holds me soft by the waist, securing me. “So I’m gonna kiss you and you’re just going to have to deal with it. If you want me to go after, I will. I swear.”

You And Your Dumb Fate

You just try to always
Take it as dumb
Fate when our
Song doesn’t play
But if we were held
Together by words as such
We’d have been done
Long before now
That’s why music came before words and you,
You’re the loud first
Beat of the kick drum
And I your faithful second
I know you long to be the violins, dear
The ones everyone comes to hear
I don’t think I’d
Have come to heard
A violin, so soft
Wrong word, so constant
You change and stay the same all at once
And we both do
You and I will always be
The back-and-forth beat
And the crashing last keys
And love
I'm still wondering if any of it should mean a  thing

Untold Love Affairs In Mr. K’s Class…….

My face Patrick

It was quite interesting today. See, a guy in my Creative Writing class (run by the aforementioned Mr. K) was talking to me in class and he just casually slipped into his train of sentence that I looked pretty today.

Awww……why can’t I have these things recorded? Now Mr. K’s mad at me because I’m not supposed to be flirting with the help. He actually came up to me at the beginning of the year and told me repeatedly that I was not allowed to become romantically involved with anyone in his class for purely his sake. Our previous year together we all shared the class with my ex and I and, well….West Side Story kind of happened. Yikes.

So, to present matters, Current Cute Boy also put the word ‘menagerie’ into a sentence, and I am a firm believer from now on that if such can be done then he needs to be rewarded.

I better ask him what he wants as prize 😉

Record This #2

I was told Love
Is all a really big lie
We have to go through
Single file
From my experience it’s heat between bodies
And sped-up heartbeats
Losing your words but not really needing to find them
Love was suddenly this is a good year
Warm hands everywhere
On hands and hips and worse
I get the feeling it gets worse when you get older
Older and wiser
Or more cynical and you stop seeing Love is all
I was told Love
Is all a really big lie
Well, I’ve been told a million others
I don’t listen to one


Not the first, but the best thing I ever heard Missy Fallon say was what she said to my half-friend Mickey. But he probably deserved it.
“Go screw yourself.” And she had this kinda nutty smile on her face and she looked dead-ass serious. Like he was gonna have to physically figure out how to shove his own head back up his ass or she’d help him at it. Would not put it past her.
In case that was no indicator, Mickey was seven times less than a gentleman. Sometimes he really deserved to be smacked. One time I did it for a girl. He for some odd reason was compelled to notify Miss Fallon of a swing in her backyard- her hips swung when she walked. I mean, logically, child, why would you want to jeopardize that never occurring ever again?
“And leave my swing outta this. You’re just jealous ‘cuz your slide don’t work.” She chuckled to herself, this little high chime. She had a real pretty laugh. I glanced up from my arms to see Mickey turn as red as I’d ever seen him. She just walked away, that swing in better shape if anything just to spite him, smiling all self-accomplished. He was just jealous that she didn’t put out and it still worked. Good Lord, it did. I glanced up over to her, and she winked right at me. I think I blushed. Didn’t take much. Missy had on these red shorts redder than her hair, and black hooker hose and Converse. Girl had some nice legs. Not that I’d spent too much time thinking about it…..
I hoped she’d caught other guys besides me with those…….maybe I’d feel better about being so damn helpless.
Mickey sat back down next to me and I couldn’t even say anything. I could never bring myself to be an ass like him. It’s just not how my dad told me to be. I’d never seen him anything but a gentleman around a skirt (even one I poured coffee for when I woke up in the morning), and I only learned from what I saw.
I’d said maybe a dozen words to Missy Fallon since the beginning of the year. And we were both seniors. I didn’t work fast. Ten minutes after the fact I couldn’t recall the words. She seemed so elite, untouchable.
I wasn’t the only one with the same sentiments. As aforementioned.
I think we’d all agree she wasn’t cheerleader-pretty. Just not her. But she just kinda stuck on all of us. Red hair and the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen. Like a flashlight with green cellophane taped over it. Alight. She was maybe five feet tall, and I was five-eight. Oops. Missy was pale without any freckles to support it, and she’d come back after every summer paler if anything. I didn’t have that problem. I had no white man in me.
It was just her smile, I guess. Maybe. She’d just kinda run up and hug her friends and make you laugh or tell you to shut the hell up, and you’d do it because it was incredibly hard to frown at her. I’d caught onto her game, every guy really had around freshman year, but we still went with it. And it wasn’t even a game she played, it was just what took place. She had this guy Spencer always following her around, but she was never dating him, acting like an attention-starved new puppy. He made her laugh all the time. I turned as green as her eyes when I saw them and I just laid back on my desk and hid. He was lucky. He got to say he made her smile.
I was too common and commoners weren’t supposed to speak to the queen, or if they were now the rules had changed awfully quickly. Hallelujah.
Mickey came back over to me.
“Just can it, man.” I said, almost straight disgusted. I picked my head up at him just to glare for effect, shaking my head like, “Really?” Sometimes I really wondered why I responded still when he talked to me. He seemed attention-starved himself. I was just really tolerant. I guess I was the only one who didn’t have a problem with him, but I never had a problem with anyone. If I was anything it was pacified. I was easy. It’s nice to feel appreciated.
I swear I heard him say, “My slide is fine, you smug bitch.” I couldn’t help smiling to myself.
I think I tried to ask her out one time after holiday break. I don’t think the words made it out of my mouth, though. I kinda met her eyes for a moment and my brain turned to goo. I had it bad, can’t you tell?
You know what? I’ll give it a real shot. I needed a prom date anyway, and I didn’t need another guy asking me out. Why were all the guys hitting on m in high school? Was I really that adorable?
Sweat beaded on the back of my neck all of a sudden. It was hard to swallow.
I waited until the bell rang and kinda cornered her. Real smooth, Dally. I came up behind her and called her name weakly, and she turned back immediately and smiled. But she smiled at everyone. Was I any different?
“Hey, Dally.” She smiled, her voice raspy. “What’s up, buttercup?” She was from Florida, she called everybody honey, baby, sweetheart, darling, et cetera. Just part of the inadvertent game. Just don’t resist and you’ll get away with most of your pride. I kinda was speechless for a sec. Train of thought, where’d it go? Into her tunnel eyes. I lost it.
“Can I be totally honest with you?” I said frankly. She just kinda smiled, like ‘okay….’
“Can I get your number?” I kinda laughed halfheartedly. “I-I didn’t know how else to put that, sorry. I-I should go now.” I said awkwardly. She kinda giggled that shrill giggle, leaning against the wall.
“Holy shit, you’re so cute.” I felt my cheeks get hot, which isn’t supposed to happen when you’re this dark, damnit! “Ohmygod, I’m sorry. My bad. Y-yeah. Of course,” She said disbelievingly, and I smiled to myself. I gave her my phone, and she put it in kinda smiling to herself giddily. She gave it back smiling, her cheeks red, and her hand kinda lingered in mine for just a second.
“Call me,” She breathed, that man-eater smile kinda nervous. I was kinda frozen. My mouth was half-open like a complete retard. Um……..
She leaned in and stretched on her toes and kissed me on the cheek, smiling again. “Soon.” I stuttered in response, smiling halfheartedly back. She turned and walked away, acting all nervous and she was giggling with Spencer (who happened to just be watching my shining moment), and I was still standing there way after the bell rang.
Easier than I thought it’d be. Hmmm…….

I wasn’t a social kid. No. I hadn’t ever been. I just didn’t need to talk. I didn’t need friends. Which sounds cold and you probably think I’m bullshitting this, but teenagers are STUPID! They’re dumb little shits. I didn’t have any interest in going out of my way to speak to them. There’s a difference between being lonely and being a loner, and sorry for being the latter. I just didn’t need to talk. No one said I was rude, I’d speak when spoken to and loan you a pencil and shit, but beyond that I did not find you necessary. And I wasn’t a nerd. I was smart, I was high in my classes, but I was on my iPod most of the time and doodling anime characters. I wanted to be a comic book illustrator but people kept ‘expecting more out of someone so bright’ and bullshit. I wasn’t getting a desk job. I was getting a bed job. Well, if I wanted that I could just be a prostitute. I bet I’d make money, seriously. I worked out religiously.
When I got home after a couple hours at the gym my dad was making out with his girlfriend on the couch. Not necessary.
“Did you buy me Oreos like I ordered??” I said loudly, putting my backpack on the kitchen table. He looked up and they fumbled back into place, and Ellie buttoned the top of her shirt hurriedly. Cute girl, actually. She was a couple years younger than my dad, but she was cute.
“Sorry, kid. Thought you were gonna be out.” He said embarrassedly. My dad always got super embarrassed about that stuff. Honestly, I’d kinda wanted to get it on with half the chicks he brought home, don’t ever quote me on that. But I couldn’t blame him.
“I just have to sit on that couch, you know?” I whined, getting the Oreos. I was a chocolate freak. I only liked the cookie part of the Oreo. I left a bowl of the creams and my dad ate them. He likes the whites- in more ways than one if you know what I mean.
“You could knock,” Ellie suggested, giggling. She was a redhead, too. We had the same taste, I guess. Well, I happened, so something obviously worked out with one girl………
“I could say something but I’m not going to….” I smirked.
“’Preciate it,” She nodded, smoothing her hair back nonchalantly. She’d been living with us for only two weeks. She was the only girl my dad had ever had move in. He’d brought plenty of girls in one time only, but I didn’t mind. They were nice. Talked to me fine. I hadn’t been made into jailbait yet, hard as it was to resist all this…
“I got digits,” I mentioned, waving my phone.
“Name?” My dad asked casually. I’d never said anything about girls ever to him, but he took it totally cool.
“Missy Fallon,”
“What’s she look like?” He asked, his way of keeping tabs on me.
“Kinda like Ellie,” I shrugged, nodding at her.
“Good taste,” He grinned, grabbing a Dr. Pepper out of the fridge.
“That indeed,” I grinned, winking at Ellie, and she grinned. She liked me. Don’t care what she said.
“Got your MO planned out?” He grinned, startlingly white. My dad was just one of those people that just looked like a really good guy. Everybody said so.
“Thought we’d go see a movie. Hitch a ride to Vegas. Get married. Then she’ll kill me and take my wallet. You know, the usual.” I shrugged, and they both giggled. “No, I haven’t even called her yet.”
“Well, what are you talking to us for?” Ellie said, pretending to throttle me. “We’re not gonna get you anywhere; go, mate, live long, and prosper.” They chased me out of the kitchen and I went into my room, kinda nervous. I decided I’d just text her. Less stuttering. I smiled to myself.
You stole my move, I typed in, swallowing hard. I got a response maybe ten seconds later. And that’s where we started.
You didn’t have any. I got bored. Winky face.
I smiled to myself, sorry for the ambush. Didn’t know what else to say.
You were adorable, Dally. My full name was Dallas Quinn, but no one had ever called me that. It was my mom’s brother’s name. My dad told me he died when my mom was real little. He said she idolized the real Dallas.
My mom died giving birth to me. I guess things went wrong fast. I don’t know much about it. My dad could never even say a word about her without tearing up, and we didn’t have any other family to ask. I had a picture of her when she was pregnant, and I think that was the only one that existed. I knew absolutely nothing about her.
So was there a point to your show in the hall or you just like making me laugh?
I smiled to myself. Calling me on it. I wanted to ask you out but I didn’t get that far. Words didn’t make it to my mouth, you know. I chuckled to myself nervously. I mean, I was nervous. This was the first girl I’d ever asked out. I just didn’t like girls in high school. They were cute, I was totally straight, but it just didn’t work out. I was asked out, and I went and was a gentleman and everything, but I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t interested.
Now you stole my move. Doing anything tomorrow?
All clear.
You know the art museum on 7th?
I’m working a gallery. You can be my trophy date. I laughed hysterically.
“You alright in there?” My dad called suspiciously. I looked up, annoyed.
“Perfectly fine,” I assured him. You have a gallery there? I asked in surprise. Yeah, I’d seen her draw. She was good. I saw a painting she did in the art room one time. Roses. I woulda taken it home with me.
Be there at eight? There’s food, we only have to stay for half an hour.
Wouldn’t miss it. I grinned to myself, giddy. Like, fangirl-giddy. I just kept smiling. I think we talked for the rest of the day. Like, ‘til I fell asleep.
The next day I was a totally weirdo. I mean, weirdo. I saw her in the hall and she’d smile at me and I was stand-still terrified. I thought I was gonna die. We texted during third period and she totally called me on it.
Nervous much? Smiley face.
I get nervous around really pretty girls. I kinda turned red in my seat.
Then I have absolutely no idea what your problem is.
Bullshit. That took me two seconds. Total bullshit. It was her turn to blush. She saw me again after the last bell rang and I was walking to my car. She stopped and waved, smiling like usual. I waved back nervously; I couldn’t move much else.
“See you later?” She called, walking to her parking spot in the other lane.
“Of course,” I answered, staying on my side of the road. This was killing me. Seriously. She kinda blushed, and I grinned even wider. “Wouldn’t miss it, remember?” I said teasingly, a lot smoother than I thought it would come out.
“I’ll see ya, Dally.” She giggled, climbing into her Sonata. My throat itched I wanted to laugh so badly.
“Yeah, see ya,” I said to myself.

I searched for an hour for the one nice shirt I owned for my date. It was in my dad’s closet underneath some old shoeboxes. A laughing Ellie ironed it out for me.
I walked into the glass-walled art gallery anxiously, casually smelling myself again. There were more people there than I’d ever seen, all dressed better than me in my grey shirt and one pair of clean jeans. I’d turbo-washed my Converse for an hour getting the grass stains out. I wasn’t a dressy person. Had no reason.
It took me a minute to find Missy in the crowd. The music was stupid and overplayed, of course that’s the one thing that occurred to me…
She found me, hidden in the crowd in front of her wall, crazy acrylics of girls in the locker room or a bride and groom with their eyes crossed out…….or one I swore on my life was me, sitting in my chair in AP Bio.
“Hey,” She said, smiling, totally at ease. I just grinned at her, and she just grinned back.
“Wow,” I said over the din, “You look beautiful. Like, more than usual.” I said totally casually. I wasn’t even saying it to impress her. I really meant it. Her hair shone under the lights, her eyes maddening. Missy’s lips were a dark red, her stark white smile alluring, matching her pale skin perfectly.
I’d never seen anyone like her.
She blushed really bad and took my hand wordlessly. “Come on, I wanna show you something.”
“You don’t care about your gallery?” There were people looking at her expectantly, like, ‘I wanna buy your shit, aren’t you going to worship the ground I walk on?’
“They can walk off with it, I don’t give a shit.” She shook her head, guiding me by the hand. Her palm was warm, her long nails black. She was wearing a black dress tied behind her neck, the curves of her hips making my eyes wander. She was one of those chicks if she was too skinny she’d look weird. Missy was straight sexy.
“Strange sentiments,”
“They’re only there because my dad wants the money. He doesn’t know I hide most of it from him, though.” She giggled secretively.
“That’s one way of going about it.” I reconsidered.
“Lots you don’t know about me, Dally.” We stood alone in a stainless steel elevator.
“Lots I’m waiting to find out.” I said without thinking; I probably wouldn’t have if I had thought about it. She just looked up at me, considering me. There was a funny expression on her face, her lips pursed to one side. I grinned for the cameras.
At last she said, “I can’t wait.” The doors opened on the roof and she led me out.
It was this incredible garden; not a garden. A pavilion. You could see the rest of the city lights all bright in the background, but it only seemed a paper backdrop for the immediate scenery. Beautiful. Bright blue-and purple flowers and this winding white walkway, this big mock Trevi fountain in the middle of it all.
I couldn’t have thought of anything better for a first date.
“Wow.” I said.
“Not open to everyone downstairs yet. I work here, so you know,” She shrugged. “Just to let you know, if you hadn’t asked me out, I probably would’ve molested you in the boys’ bathroom one day very soon.” Missy said matter-of-factly, and my eyes kinda widened, but I took it like a man.
“Well put,” I said finally, and she smiled really wide. All she seemed to do that night was smile. We sat down on a bench in front of the fountain, and we just kinda sat there waiting for each other for a while, and she leaned her head on my shoulder and held my hand out in front of her. I looked down at her questioningly.
How did I get here in a day?
We talked all night. At some point music from downstairs floated up to the top, and we danced together for a while, her small figure in my gangly arms. I told her everything I knew about myself, from my mom to how I only liked the cookie part of the Oreo. She only ate the middles.
Missy told me she only lived with her dad- her mom left when she was three, lived in California somewhere. Wrote sometimes. Missy cooked. Missy cleaned. Missy made sure boys didn’t spend the night in her room. Seemed like a bummer, the way she told it. But she didn’t seem bummed. She seemed used to it. We danced some more. I twirled her and caught her and was mesmerized for what could’ve really been forever, and we just stood there holding onto each other and forgot to say anything.
“It is what it is.” She shrugged, batting her long lashes and smiling still. I wondered if it ever hurt to smile so much.
“How are you so you all the time?” I asked frankly, shaking my head. She gave me this look like, “What?”
“No, like you’re always smiling at everyone, and laughing, and being you and adorable, and now you’re tell me all this and…….They just seem like two completely different people. Not, like, to offend you.” I added quickly. She laughed out loud. “But don’t you get tired of it?”
“It’s just easier, believe it or not. I’m so used to completely bullshitting it that I don’t care anymore. Like with Spencer? He was watching you the other day because he knows all about me. And he’s the only one besides you now. He’s just protective because the only real people in my life are all men- and that is kind of sad, actually.” She considered for a moment, her lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed. I just laughed a little madly.
“Okay, I don’t feel so bad about having a stalker.” I grinned.
“Actually, he’s been half in love with me since he met me. He tried to tell me one time and it didn’t work out so well, so he’s been in Labrador mode ever since. But he won’t bite.” I realized we were holding hands again, our fingers intertwined. I looked down at her black shiny fingernails, and looked up and she was grinning again.
“How do you smile all the time?”
“I’m happy.” She said quietly. “A lot.”
“Good. Me, too.” I nudged her knee with mine. “Pretty happy.” I nodded. Before I knew what was going on, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek again. Looking up at me, Missy’s eyes sparkled, unsure.
She leaned back and I caught her chin with my thumb and kissed her on the lips, leaning my forehead against hers. Her smile was brilliant.
“Yeah, I’m good, too.” Missy whispered. I was a little more than terrified at this point, and I think she could see it. I just smiled back weakly, and she scooted closer to me. I kissed her again softly, pulling her close.
I bet I could start smiling all the time, too.

I texted Missy the next morning- so how’d I do?
Hehe, you pass, alright. I grinned to myself, pouring coffee for myself and my father’s significant other. My dad slept like the dead on Saturday mornings. Ellie just got up ‘cuz she taught these swimming classes at the rec center. It’s those redheads in bathing suits, man…..
Yay is right.
I had fun last night.
Yeah, me, too. You looked hot.
Well, I try. *blush* I really did blush.
“What’s with you, kid?” Ellie asked.
“Hangover,” I muttered, drinking my coffee.
“More like punch-drunk,” She muttered not-so-under-her-breath. I glared at her halfheartedly. “You got a picture of the lucky lady?” She said tiredly, blinking sleep out of her eyes. I flipped through my phone and brought it up- she was smiling in front of the fountain. Ellie’s eyes widened.
“Okay, I’m awake!” She blinked at me, like ‘really?’
“Yeah, really.” I said, nodding. My phone beeped, and I lunged over the table for it.
What are you wearing? I grinned to myself.
What’s it to you?
Helps with the fantasies.
There are fantasies now, are there?
There have been for a while, dipshit. I grinned, and Ellie looked dubiously at me.
Basketball shorts and a t-shirt. All for you, Missy.
I’m honored.
Sorry it took so long. Nervous around pretty girls, remember?
Worth the wait.

Unlimited texting is a good thing, or I would’ve gotten in serious shit. I also talked to her for, like, seven hours collectively that weekend. Okay, so I had it bad. And Dad and Ellie made me well aware of it.
Monday we were public about it. She ran up to me in the parking lot and kissed me good morning, and we held hands walking into the building. And it all happened just like that. I was stuck.
So those hugs she gave everyone else? Those were mine now. A lot of ‘em. And I’d been missing out. She was so loving, I’d never met anyone like her. When I walked her to class she’d hug me before she went in, and I’d almost be late I held on so long. She was shameless about it, but she wasn’t clingy. She kept me mostly out of that other part of her life, the one with her and her dad and being alone- she said it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t her, she said. I begged to differ. I held her hand by her slender fingertips; Fridays she’d grab my ass as she was walking away. She had that swing and it was nice too, alright.
Spencer cornered me a week later at lunch.
“Hey.” He sat down with me at lunch. I sat in one booth. Sometimes people sat down with me and tried to talk. Sometimes I talked. Sometimes I made ‘em laugh. I had a pretty good sense of humor when I wanted to. I didn’t mind. I didn’t bite, people saw that. One kid needed help in calc and I gave him a hand, no hard feelings. I really didn’t bite. Just when staff came to talk to me was when I got nervous. It wasn’t like I came in dressed like the Unabomber, ‘kay? ‘Lemme ‘lone!
“Hey,” I raised an eyebrow at him. This was the lunch I didn’t have with Missy. I took my earbuds out, not to be rude. Raised not to be rude.
“You know Missy doesn’t shut up about you, right?” He said frankly. He was a freckled kid with fat lips. Like, if he wasn’t so pale he’d be black.
“Really?” I kinda grinned, chuckling. He nodded.
“Just be…….careful with her, you know? She’s really precious cargo.” He said.
I looked at him head-on. “Spencer. Think about it. It’s Missy.” I put it delicately. “Do you really think any guy could stand being an ass to her? I mean, to her? ‘Cuz I know you know her better than anyone.”
He seemed to totally relax. “Glad you get it. Because I know she told you about my little failed escapade……” He drifted off, nodding. “Yeah. I-I don’t care about that. I just really want her to be happy. I’ve never seen her this happy, and she deserves it if anyone ever did, so don’t you dare fuck it up.”
“You have my word, I’ll try my best not to.” He just got up and walked away. I never knew if he believed me or not. I just went back to eating. School food was gross.

After a while I couldn’t keep her from my dad and Ellie. Just couldn’t avoid it. This was actually weeks later. Graduation was coming up. College acceptances were coming in the mail. Prom was in two weeks. Missy and I were going. We knew it long before I asked her. It was just something that was gonna happen. I had my tux ordered and everything. My dad’s friend was letting me borrow his El Camino- it was sitting in our garage.
I had taken her home one afternoon, we were working on homework at the bar and she was messing with my iPod and I was not busy not caring about AP calculus. A serious game of footsie was going on underneath us. I was winning- my legs were longer. I looked up when the door opened, and my dad looked fairly surprised. Ellie was carrying shopping bags.
“Ooh, she does exist. I thought he got that picture off the internet.” Ellie broke the moment of silence, and Missy giggled. “Hey, sweetie, I’m Ellie.”
“Andy Quinn. I’m Dad. She’s no one important.” He said teasingly. “How do you do.” He added politely.
“Nice to meet you. Missy Fallon.” She nodded, smiling. I looked over at her, a little mesmerized again.
“Oh, we know.” I glared at Ellie, and she winked at me.
“Whatcha kids doing?” My dad asked.
“Each other, clearly.” Ellie added quietly. My dad put a hand over her mouth wordlessly and faced us.
“Calculus,” Missy said. “Really exciting.” She nodded emphatically, and I laughed to myself. My dad grinned.
“I like this girl.” He nodded at Missy.
“What a coincidence! Me, too!” I grinned wickedly at Missy, and she blushed like a cherry.
“Well, she tries.” Missy added meekly, and I nudged her foot under the counter. She kicked me back.
“Feel like staying for dinner?” My dad offered immediately.
“You mean I don’t have to cook dinner? I would seriously love you forever.” She said completely seriously. All my dad did was laugh. She didn’t get it.
Missy completely dressed up whoever she was to my dad. To him her father worked constantly and she was really devoted to getting into school, ‘cuz it was her ticket outta here. Loved art but I already knew that. She was applying to schools all over the country- I didn’t know anything about that. Kinda made me think about who she really was.
My dad volunteered a little about me, which prompted more from me. I was applying to arts schools because nobody could fucking stop me- my exact words. My dad gave me a little glare but didn’t say anything. I was a lifeguard at the pool at the rec center during the summer (sexiest lifeguard EVER!). Missy just laughed. Well, I was right.
So, that was Meet the Parents. Yay. After the dishes were done Missy and I were sitting on the couch, making out. Dad and Ellie had long been asleep. She was sitting in my lap, her head next to mine. I couldn’t get over her smile.
“God, you’re beautiful.” I said softly, and she just took it. Again. She had to be used to it by now. She just was.
“Uh-huh, you’re just horny,”
“That, and I’m right.” I kissed her back, brushing her mass of red hair behind her ear, and she smiled addictingly. I wondered fleetingly if she’d stay the night. “You’re pretty amazing, Missy Fallon. Beautiful is just part of it.” I whispered, nose-to-nose with her. She smiled, her eyes alight, and kissed me again.
“Takes one to know one.” She whispered back, her voice deep and sexy. Every part of her sexy. It was what she always was. “You’re pretty great yourself, Dally.”
“Agree to disagree,” I argued, a little breathlessly.
And before I knew it I was in love with Missy Fallon. And she was in love with me, too. I thought of the Romeo and Juliet line- “Call me but love and I’ll be new baptized.”
“So what was that stuff with my dad tonight?” I asked.
“What stuff?” She asked, looking a little miffed at having to pause to speak. She still had her arms around me. She leaned her forehead against mine, and I couldn’t help beaming for all I was worth.
“Like with your dad and college and all that. The story just seems to change every time I hear it.” I said a little disappointedly, fiddling with the ends of her hair. She grabbed my hand and held it to her cheek, and I rubbed my finger against her skin until she smiled.
“Habit,” She shrugged, “Parts of it were true. I am trying to get out of here. The crap about my dad was total shit, sorry about that, but I really haven’t told you everything about my dad, Dally. Just let me get away with it again, alright?” She smiled weakly. Her fat lower lip pouted out a little bit, and I nudged it with my finger. She grinned and kissed my hand.
“Are you……okay?” I asked nervously. She didn’t answer. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and I just pulled my arms behind her back and held her. All I could do.
“Just tell me if there’s anything I can do,” I whispered against her ear, my hand running through her hair. She smiled against my shoulder.
“I love you, Dally.”
“I love you, too.” I kissed her on the forehead. Told you she loved me.
What was a bummer was it went downhill really fast.
She’d been weird the whole time we were dating about me going to her house. I knew straight-up she didn’t want me meeting her dad. And I really tried to be cool with it, but it kinda ticked me off after a while, especially after she said she loved me. Like, you love me but you’re ashamed of me?
“Is there a reason you don’t ever want me to see your dad?” I asked one day after school. She was gonna drive her car to my place like she did every day. I mean, every damn day. She just looked up and over at me, her hand in mine.
“You just wanna know what my bed looks like, don’t even lie.” She said matter-of-factly, and I kissed her on the cheek, laughing. I followed her to her apartment building this time. Turns out the reason she always went straight to my place was she lived on the other side of damn town! And I did not know these things!
“You did not tell me you live on the other side of town.” I said slowly, in her face. She giggled and kissed me again. Missy said her dad was home early. She seemed nervous about it. I squeezed her hand, but it didn’t seem to do anything. I wrapped my arm over her shoulder.
“Have faith in me.” I growled jokingly, her skin stark against mine.
“It’s not you, it’s him.” She muttered. The door opened and she led me down the hall, opening a door at the very end. It was hardly furnished and covered in her paintings.
Her dad, I suppose, short like her, walked out a few minutes later, smoking a cigarette in a dirty t-shirt and ripped, stained jeans. Fucking redneck, I’m sorry.
Missy turned redder than red. She looked ready to cry, really. I squeezed her hand, alarmed. I didn’t know, honestly, what she was so freaked out about. It was starting to freak me the fuck out.
“O-o-o-oh,” He chuckled, missing teeth. I could tell off the bat he’d been drinking. It was just the smell off his breath. I knew immediately what Missy had meant. Or I thought I did. I could tell drunks a mile away.
“Hello sir,” I said mildly, smiling halfheartedly. I knew whatever I said wouldn’t register tomorrow, so it was pointless.
“So, that’s it now, Missy? That’s what you’ve done to me? You gone and got yerself a nigger boy?” I just stopped right there. Nope. Not-not happening. Sorry. I just turned around and walked out.
“Dally!” Missy yelled after me. I didn’t even turn around. I took the elevator down alone. I got to my car and my phone was ringing.
“Yeah?” I said.
“Let me explain, Dally! You can’t just run out like that!” Missy was in tears.
“Don’t cry on me. It’s not worth it. Why-“
I started again, staring at the ground as I walked to my car. I knew without turning around she was somewhere behind me.
“Why’d you start this game in the first place? What, you thought it’d be fun? You thought you’d hide me, you’d see what happened, then as soon as you got bored this was how you’d get rid of me? Taking your drunk, racist father out on my ass? I really thought more of you, Missy, I did!” I shouldn’t have said anything about her father. I shouldn’t have. Even if it was true. But she deserved it.
She was seriously in tears. “That’s why I didn’t want you coming here! I didn’t want you to see him! I’m not him, Dally! I’m not! I’m nothing, I’ve never been anything like him, just listen to me, please!” She sobbed. “Please, Dally.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just not doing this. I can’t, can’t do it.” I said coldly. “Missy, I’m not stupid enough to ask you to pick between me and your dad, I’m just telling you-“
I swallowed hard, “I’m just not waiting around for you to not pick me.” I hung up. First and last time I ever hung up on a girl. Tears ran down my cheeks. I couldn’t help it.
Any other way, really. Any other way.

Kinda blew up in our faces. The next morning we had our first class together. I never spoke, so nobody cared, but she spoke to everyone, so the world was ending.
“I’m fine.” She said coldly, without a look at me. I smirked, my head in my arms. I turned up my headphones until I couldn’t hear anyone anymore. I could be fine, too. Mickey asked me what my problem was and I told him to go to hell. That guy seriously needed to take the hint.
Missy’s friends kept giving me shit. She was taking it hard. Well, sucks to be her. She should’ve told me. Now I was being blacklisted. Or whitelisted, I guess……
Spencer tried to go all tough-guy on me maybe a week later. When people constantly question your sexuality, and you greatly resemble a Labrador, this look is incredibly hard to pull off.
“You know she came over to my house last night in tears, right?”
“Nothin’ I did, don’t look at me. Ask her.” I shook my head, trying to get my stuff so I could leave.
“I did ask her- she won’t leave me alone about it. I’ve never seen her this upset, man.”
“Don’t ‘man’ me, you little shit, we’ve never spoken before. I did not do anything. I don’t do race. Not my scene. She did all this, she can pick up all the damn pieces, now do I have to shove that farther down your throat for you all to stop bothering me?” I growled. I think he whimpered a little bit.
“You said you wouldn’t hurt her. You said it yourself. All I’m saying.” He said stonily.
“Yeah, well, looks like every single one of us lied, doesn’t it?” I slammed my locker shut, blinking hard and walking to my car. It was really hard not to see Missy out of the corner of my eye.
I did everything I could to avoid her. Everything. It didn’t work for shit. Every time I tried to not look for her I ended up picking her out; every time I tried to block it out I picked out her name; it was madness and I was getting obsessed. I wasn’t supposed to be this weak. I had never thought of Missy Fallon, the girl I was starkly, for all time in love with, more than the two weeks I tried to completely forget her. I was a step short of seeking electro-shock therapy, and my dad was a step short of helping me. Something about me was bringing up some serious PTSD with him, I didn’t know what was going on.
I finally learned who my mom was.
That one picture? No. Put that to shame. There was a whole box. Her name was Julia. She left her whole family to be with my dad, which was why I never knew any of her family. They blamed him for her death. Apparently it was just a mishap- the doctor said it wasn’t anyone’s fault.
“And I’m so sorry this is all happening to you, son, I really am. I wish to all hell your mom was here to tell you things were gonna be fine. Odds are you’d believe her much more than you’d believe me. I just- I know you’d love her, Dally. She loved you so much. She died loving you, Dally. She died thinking of you.” He rubbed the top of my head, staring at the pictures. There were videos they were gonna show me and pictures and all sorts of shit my dad hadn’t dragged out until now. I almost hated him for a moment for hiding her from me.
I didn’t even know her name, you know? Julia. Pretty. Yeah, my mom coulda been Julia. She was, as a matter of fact. At least I had a name to the face.
I hugged him. It’s all I could do. I was at a loss for words. Honestly, I was livid at him. How dare he? He had no goddamn right. That was my mom, and I had no idea who she was, and just now he decided I’d be blessed with the knowledge? I was livid. I couldn’t stand him. I took my tapes and went into my room, watched them in my pj’s and cried until I passed out.
Next day was hell. I was shaken up and it was the day before prom and the people were straight sickening. I wanted to die a little bit inside.
I didn’t see Missy until lunch. She wore this black-and-white striped dress and I remember thinking, is she looking for me, too?
She looked right at me. Dead-ass right at me. Calmly. Expressionless. I was stand-still terrified, but what else was new with her? Her green eyes drilled right into mine- sorry, she mouthed.
I know, I mouthed. I looked down and finished my lunch, grimacing. Twenty minutes later I was running up the steps to Bio and I almost knocked her flat. She gasped and I caught her not a second too late. I stood her back up, and I guess I forgot to drop my arm.
“Sorry.” I whispered breathlessly. I forgot she came down this way and I was supposed to avoid her. Or maybe I meant not to. Oops.
“It’s cool.” I meant about everything. She knew I meant about everything. I still didn’t let go.
“Can I tell you something?” I asked really frankly, really, really confused. My head was a mess on steroids.
“Do it.”
“I miss the hell out of you. It doesn’t change anything, I just do. Sorry about that.” I grimaced.
“Yeah. Sucks to be us.” She shrugged. She was still holding onto my arm, her eyes holding mine still in space.
“Yeah.” She brought her hand up and brushed the back of it against my cheek curiously, and a chill went right down my back. I felt like I was in a straightjacket. And I deserved it, too.
“Can I ask you something now?” I held her tighter without thinking about it. She nodded wordlessly, holding my neck.
“Do it.” She gulped.
“Can I kiss you again? ‘Cuz I’ve wanted to for a while now.” I asked pleadingly, bending down to her face, and she looked right up at me ‘till we were nose-to-nose.
“I don’t know. Find out.” She didn’t need to ask twice. I met her mouth hesitantly, curious, but it turned hungry fast. I pressed into her desperately, itching. I lifted her off the stairs and backed her against the wall, wrapping my arms around her. She jumped up and wrapped her legs around me, and I held her up against the wall, practically down her throat.
God, I didn’t care. That wasn’t her. Man, did I overreact or what?
“Shit…..” I said breathlessly, putting her down, “I am so sorry, Missy.” I brushed her hair with my hand gently, and she smiled with wet eyes.
“I’m sorry. I should’ve told you. So you’d understand. You didn’t understand, I get it. I couldn’t believe me, either. I expected more out of me, too.” She rubbed her thumb against my neck and I grinned against her lips. “I love you so much, I’m so sorry.”
“I love you too, I’m sorry I didn’t listen, I love you, too.” I kissed her again and again and again. Long after the bell rang and the hall was deserted we stood there. I kissed her forehead gently. “I missed you so much, you have no idea.” I whispered.
“You’d be surprised.” She whispered.
“You doing anything for prom still?” I grinned down at her, and she beamed. She shook her head. “Do you still wanna go to prom with me? I still have the tickets.” I whispered, tipping her chin up to look at me.
“I wouldn’t ever go with anyone else.” She whispered hoarsely, and I kissed her again, and we sat down in the corner there and held each other there, holding time. Time was a squirming, faceless thing.
Okay, so I picked her up at Spencer’s. Close enough, right? He still seemed super leery of me, like totally big brother, but I guess I deserved it, if she was really as upset as he said. We were all licking our wounds still.
Tuxes are stupid. We all look like monkeys, I didn’t see the appeal. But Missy looked thrilled, and that’s all the reason I needed.
Jesus Christ, I’d never seen anyone like her. No one like her. She wore a white dress like Marilyn Monroe, with black gloves to her elbows and dark eyes and her lips red and inviting. All of her inviting. As always. What else was new? Black feathers hung from her hair in netting, and only she could wear Converse to prom and totally get away with it. Only her.
All I could do was smile. I slid her the corsage I picked up with Ellie that morning meekly- a white rose with black feathers- and put it on her wrist. Her matching white smile was weakening.
Spencer just smiled. “Call if there’s any trouble, drop her off here afterward.” I guess he wasn’t going. I nodded at him and smiled.
“Thanks,” I said. “I mean it.”
“Anything for my girl.” He smiled back. I led Missy to my borrowed car and she giggled getting in.
Prom was our first date with more people. So a little bit worse than our first date. But tolerable. Missy was there. She looked like that. And she was with me. We danced for hours and hours on end; people said hi to her but she blew them off completely for me. She was better than Cinderella because I didn’t have to dread midnight. And now that I’d found her again I wouldn’t lose her this time, damnit. Not happening on my watch. I didn’t think she’d feel so good in my arms like that. We danced and kissed and whispered stupid bullshit to each other for hours- and I’d repeat every minute of it a hundredfold.
“Ellie and Dad weren’t gonna be home tonight in case you wanted to stay over tonight.” I whispered, the night getting late. The crowd was thinning. We were in the last half-hour of the match.
“Sounds great,” She whispered, grinning against my lips. “Let’s go.” She gripped my hand tight, weaving through the remainder of the crowd.
I remember shutting the door to my bedroom behind us and thinking, please, Lord, forgive me for I have sinned……..
She kissed me softer than ever, teasingly, her lips barely touching mine. Her breath felt hot and heavy.
“Spencer’s gonna be so mad I didn’t get you home,” I remarked.
“Screw Spencer.” She whispered, reaching for me again. I wrapped my arms all the way around her, her tongue brushing mine. God, she tasted good. God. Everywhere she touched me I felt on fire. She nearly ripped my jacket off of me and tossed it on the floor, unbuttoned my shirt blindly and nearly tore my t-shirt off.
“Hold up! Before we kill ourselves here.” I kissed her warmly and sat her on my bed, turned on my bedside table and turned off the overhead. She watched me with a curious look, like she wasn’t totally sure one of us was awake.
“Yeah, you can’t believe all of this is real, can you?” I pursed my lips at her, and she laughed. “Yeah, I see you, checking me out all the time. I know, don’t lie, hon.” I sat at her feet and untied her shoes idly, smiling to myself.
“I love you, you know that?”
“Starting to believe it.” I smiled and looked up. Her face was incredible. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.
“Good. You’re gonna be believing it for a while.” She told me, smiling. I finished untying her shoes and threw them near the door. She sat up and I unzipped the back of her dress and she slipped out of it without a word. She laid back on her back and pulled me to her unsteadily, and I leaned forward unsurely.
“Hold up.” She said suddenly. Her hands were at my chest, pushing me away. I obeyed immediately. I realized my hands had brushed her breasts, and I pulled them away embarrassedly. “Hold up,” She said again, sitting up. I got off her completely.
“I’m sorry, Missy. I-if you don’t want to, we really don’t have to take it that far ton-“
She was crying. Softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks, her eyes glinting in the window light. Something about the romance gone awry of the scene made it so raw- it was just one of those moments I knew I should pay attention. And somehow I knew instinctively it wasn’t something I did. It was just something I was confident in.
“Hey,” I whispered, brushing tears from her cheeks. I turned her by the arms towards me, cradling her against my chest. “It’s okay. I didn’t mean it. We don’t have to do anything, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Missy, I’m sorry.” Her hand brushed up and down my arm, grasping my hand curiously, flitting up to my cheek. She reached up and kissed me softly.
“It’s not you.” She whispered. “It’s not you.” She shifted, and I caught her arm.
“Come on,” I pleaded, “Don’t go. Tell me. Or don’t. Anything. Just don’t go.” She met my eyes again, then settled back against the other side of my bed.
“I told you things were rough with my dad, right?” Her eyes flashed up at me, almost frightened.
“Yeah. You didn’t say much after that.” I said softly. “Missy, are you okay?”
“Yes and no.” She shrugged. “It’s a confusing story. They’re like…….passes. Like, he makes passes at me. But I’m his daughter. I can’t ever really full-out say he grabbed my boobs or smacked my ass but they’re damned borderline, you know?” I just brushed her hair back again silently. I didn’t know how to convey the horror I felt.
“I mean, I get boobs when I’m eleven and suddenly I’m up for grabs by every guy that I’ve ever met. I mean, really? From my father, of all friggin’ people. It’s just ridiculous. And then he’s dressing me like a whore, and I was wearing sweats in the house one time and he asked, ‘now who bought you those?’ and I got it. I’m supposed to be my mom. Because my mom took off. I’m always supposed to looks my best, and keep the house clean, and be available, and cook every meal, because that’s what wives do.” She said sadly, her eyes cold. “It’s just- doesn’t work like that, Dad. He doesn’t even deserve to be called that. He doesn’t. He’s not my dad.” I just kissed her on the forehead.
“I’m so sorry, Missy. I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I f I had known I wouldn’t have done anything, I swear, I’m so sorry.” She stopped me.
“That’s it, Dally. I want you. I want you; you have no idea.” She whispered, barely a breath. “I want you to have me, to take me, and I didn’t want that to have anything to do with it. I wanted to always be with you and just be able to forget about him but for some reason it just didn’t work out like that, you know?” She huffed against my chest, and I just held her still.
I brushed her hair with my hand again, whispering, “Thank you. Thank you, Missy. Thank you so much. I will take whatever you want to give me. I just want to be part of you. Please.” I begged, rocking her against me. She picked her head up.
“Take it then, Dally.” She whispered, sounding almost scared. I kissed her softly, finding her lips again in the semi-darkness and smiling, and suddenly she was undoing my clothes.
Almost pure need building in my chest, I struggled getting her bra off, and she pulled my pants and my boxers down finally and soon enough there we were. We were together. And no one stopped us.
And no one was going to this time.
The next morning we woke up tangled in each other, Missy lying on my chest. The covers were pulled around us. I knew my dad and Ellie weren’t home.
“Dally?” She said to me.
“Yeah?” I rubbed her hair absently with my hand, glancing down at her. God, I loved her.
“We have to leave.” She whispered against my chest, sounding afraid of the words.
“I know, love.”
“You love me still, don’t you?” Missy sounded hopeful.
“Look at me.” She brought her head up to look me dead in the eye. “Every time I say I love you I will always mean it. And I will always be saying it. Okay? So yeah, we do have to leave. I have to be with you, Missy. I don’t have a choice. We’ll go today. Right now. You wanna drop by your house and get your stuff?”
“Yeah. My dad won’t be home.”
“You should leave him a note so he doesn’t call the cops.” I mentioned.
She sniggered. “What?”
“Nothing. It’s mean.” She waved it off, buried in my chest.
“’Ran away with the nigger’?” I suggested. She looked up at me.
“Sorry,” She admitted.
“Don’t be, it’s a lil’ funny,” I conceded. “You and me, Missy. How ‘bout it?”
“You and me, Dally.” She kissed me. “You and me.”
My dad would forgive me.
I mean, he did it.

You Don’t Have A Reason

How long is this going to go on?

                He’s just sitting there. He was looking for food a while ago, so I gave him my last bag of Fritos I’d been saving. He’s watching The Walking Dead in his sweats and the T-shirt I bought him awhile back, “Smoke Meth & Hail Satan.” He cut the arms off a while ago, and I can see his abs underneath. He looks friggin’ adorable when he wakes up, with his shaggy hair messed up and his eyes half-closed behind invisible-but-stupidly-long blond eyelashes. Curled up on the couch, he looks like a little emo kid. He is a little emo kid, even though he’s eighteen.

                I’m, like, two years younger than him…ish. Today’s my sixteenth birthday. I hate my birthday. It just reminds me my parents aren’t here, they weren’t here last year, and they probably won’t be here next year either. It’s maddening to think I’m so unremarkable and I’ll always stay that way. No birthday hugs. No balloons. No party or even a card. Sure, I’ll get a birthday check. My dad called me yesterday and asked me if five hundred was enough. Last year they sent me eight hundred, and I bought ass-kicking wardrobes for me and mine at Urban Outfitters. We go out now looking like totally emo badasses.

                “What do you want for your birthday?” Casey asks me. I get up and walk to the kitchen before he can see me blush.

                Nobody knows, I think to myself. Nobody knows but me. The one good thing about this is that I’m really good at hiding how I feel. I think it’s just ‘because I’m depressed as shit and I rarely show much emotion except just being blatantly pissy.

                I take my pills and wash it down with my nasty strawberry protein shake. The strawberry ones are the grossest; Casey buys me the shakes because I won’t eat enough. I have a thyroid problem, so even with the hormones, if I don’t have about thirty-five hundred calories a day, I get scary-skinny and I can’t do anything but sleep.

                “Here, drink this.” I hand the shake to Casey. He cringes. I hope my color is fading. He can’t find out my secret. Although he might already know.

                “I dare you.” I challenge, grinning.

                “Ew,” He says plainly.

                “Baby,” Casey Rothman hates being called names. He hates labels. Now I’ve done it. Pissed, he snatches the shake and chugs the remainder of it. He gags and gets this really funny look on his face. He coughs and splutters, then lifts my light ass off the ground and throws me down onto the couch, pretending to throw up all over me and jumping on me. I laugh. I have a really loud laugh. I cackle like a witch.

                “Please don’t lick me,” I beg. Casey licks everybody indiscriminately. It’s his general sign of affection. And hugs. Like, molestation hugs. Casey licks my eyebrow and I scream. He’s always been one of those people who just knew when to hug you or kiss you or hold your hand when you need him to. Or lick. He’s like the Labrador in Up, even if nobody else would think so.

                “Okay fine, you don’t have to drink those.” He says, conceding that I win. Sometimes I can totally play him like that. But he’d do just about anything for me, so he doesn’t fight hard. He only started making me drink ‘em ‘cause I’ve always been about fifteen pounds underweight.

                “Whatever you say,” I grin.

                “Is that what you wanted for your birthday?” He gets off of me, and I get up off the couch.

                “Nope,” I say, hiding my face in the chair behind him. I painted his toes black a week ago while he was sleeping, and it still hasn’t chipped off. He’s Matthew Bellamy with a softer jaw line. He dyes his hair black, but it’s supposed to be this really cool platinum blonde, so when his roots grow in its super cool. It’s unkempt in an adorable way, with his shaggy bangs in his eyes. His eyes are blue, but a weird blue, like a really dark blue. I’d kill just to have a decent excuse to stare at them for a while. He’s as tall as Bellamy, too! He’s five-six! They’re twins! He really doesn’t look eighteen. He looks fifteen maybe.

                But he’s really friggin’ sweet. Everybody who bothers to talk to him loves him to death, even though nobody talks to him because according to the school counselor we’re unapproachable. He’s always there when I’m having one of those days; he gives the best friggin hugs in the world- they could stop wars, I swear. He literally picks me up from school halfway through the day every day because he gets bored alone. He stole a wheelchair for me when we went to this music festival so he could get me up front. Someone actually thought he was Matthew Bellamy because Muse was playing there. He went along with it, and when they found out he wasn’t, security got us to meet Muse.

                He cannot make friends. We both have wicked social anxiety. I mean, concerts are one thing, but we can’t do big parties. We never hang out afterschool with anyone. Well, okay- I went to both his proms with him and I took him to homecoming. We tried. But we didn’t talk to anyone- we lectured the DJ on what to play and danced dirty with other people’s dates because we could just get away with that kind of stuff. We’re the only ones who really know each other, though. His parents haven’t even talked to him since he got emancipated when he was sixteen. Casey’s never talked about his family. I lost all my friends when I was eight and I was diagnosed with chronic depression. Anybody else who isn’t us would probably die of loneliness in our situation.

                 I’m convinced that he likes me back, and I know that’s weird because he’s two years older and graduated high school, but my parents are nineteen years apart, so there. My parents think he wanted to move in with me so he could sleep with me.

Well he’s a guy, and he’s straight, so maybe that did have something to with it….whatever; that didn’t happen, is the point. My virginity is still fully intact.

But in the past couple years I’ve either subconsciously starved myself or I’ve actually attempted suicide numerous times. I know he’ll never forgive me for shit like that, so he’s here to physically make sure I never go through with either. I don’t know what I’d do without him now that I’ve got him.

                But we are also the biggest flirts in the world, so it’s pretty much totally comfortable. We have to say something that really sounds like a come-on for it to actually stick as a come-on.

                “You still haven’t told me what you want.” He points out, and I flip him off behind his back.

                “I’m just not gonna tell you…” I taunt him. He turns around and shoots a wicked grin at me. My jaw kinda drops open just a little bit. Just a little bit. God damn. He shouldn’t be able to smile like that if I can’t kiss him afterward. It isn’t fair. He puts his chin on his hand and just looks at me awhile, and, self-conscious suddenly, I look at the gruesome bloodbath on the screen, desperate to get away from the attention. His big eyes are soft, his hair in his face and I want to brush it away.

                Mentally screaming obscenities.

                “I know you want something.” He says quietly. “Everybody wants something.” He teases me, and I know he knows. My eyes widen but I can’t pull them away. His laughing eyes turn serious. He knows everything. I let my guard down and he knows everything and I’ll probably never hear the end of it. This could be the end of all of it.

                He smiles real gently out of the side of his mouth, and my eyes widen in shock. I am the deer. A baby deer. The light is terrifying. I start stuttering, trying to say something rational, and he just smiles. Casey sits down beside me on the loveseat, our knees touching, and he very smoothly takes both my hands in one of his and puts them on his lap. I find myself feeling imprisoned by those eyes, a guilty party. The fat curve of his lips looks inviting. Very. He smiles, immediately calming me. I want to bolt. I do it all the time. But I want this so bad. And he’s just so…inviting.

                He puts his hand on my neck, like he’s thought everything about this second through before. I’m so at a loss for words, for actions, for mere thoughts, but I like this feeling. Casey leans in close to me, really close, tightening his grip on my wrists and my jaw. He smiles gently. I don’t have to be afraid, it’s not like he’d hurt me. He pauses, looking into my eyes, as if to ask permission. I don’t move a muscle, and at first he kisses me on the cheek, just a brush of his lips against skin. He looks me right in the eyes. His eyes are on fire, glowing with their own personal light. I can read his thoughts before he speaks them. Barely hesitating, he leans in for my lips.

                Shocked isn’t even close to the right word. I feel flat-out drugged. I’ve had this dream before. But he never looked at me exactly that way, and held me like this, like he’s just as determined to have this happen as I want it to. I’d never dreamt his lips would be so soft, that he’d taste this good. He holds my hands to his chest, and I lean in close to him. Dear God, take me now. I just want to live in the immediacy of him; screw the aftermath. He releases my hands and wraps his arm around my waist. We stay like this for a long time, unmoving. He lays me back against the chair cushion. I grin against his lips. God.

                “Thanks,” I say quietly when he pulls away, his face not an inch from mine. His forehead’s leaned up against mine. He doesn’t get off of me. I feel suddenly embarrassed.

                “Yeah,” He says breathlessly, looking just about as confused as I feel. He’s the deer now. I am paralyzing. We both knew I wanted this but that doesn’t mean we know what it means. I mean, he lives here. He’s my only friend. He takes care of me like a dad, teases me like a brother, listens to me like a grandfather, has fun with me like a best friend, and, and…

                Kisses me like a first love. Crap.

                I reach up with one hand and run my fingers through his hair. He has soft hair, thin from the dye. I was with him the last time he had a haircut, and I was fourteen.

                “Do you know what that was?” Casey asks rather blatantly, looking more confused than anything.

                “Well…you knew what I wanted.” I shrug, trying to pretend this isn’t as big a deal as it feels. Because odds are it really isn’t.

                “Yeah…but I honestly wanted to do that. This just seemed like a more opportune time. Does that just make me an ass, then?” He guesses. I close my eyes for a second, soaking in the realness of this moment, the reality.

                “Not at all,” I shrug. He rubs his thumb against my cheek. I hold onto his wrist, smiling. He kisses me again, barely half a second. I have to be dreaming.

                “I have to be dreaming.” I get out. My heart beats furiously, trying to keep up with the thoughts going rapid-fire in my head. What does this mean? Could we actually be together? Does he really feel like that about me? Can this happen? Can this happen? Can this happen?

                What if this isn’t real?

                “That’d make this easier to swallow, that’s for sure. How ‘bout it, Abby?” He asks softly, his eyes tender and quiet.

                I can just barely nod my head once. His lips form to mine and he takes me completely in his arms, enveloping me, surrounding me. There’s nothing but Casey. I won’t admit out loud how scared I am right now. He rubs his thumb against my temple, brushing the part of my head that’s shaved.

                Then another earthquake hits and it literally makes me jump out of my skin. Casey curses, looking mildly frightened. We’ve had ‘em unusually frequently for the past couple of days, getting worse and worse. Which probably means some apocalyptic shift will shatter the tectonic plates today, but in California I wouldn’t put it past nature.

                I laugh nervously when it’s over. I’m used to them, but they still scare me sometimes. They’re never enough to do much damage. But the one that woke me up this morning was reported at a four. Dishes fell out of our cupboards and my bookshelves tipped over.

                The only time I really had a problem with earthquakes was when I was ten. I had a nanny back then to watch me, but she was out at the grocery store. I was home alone; I was only supposed to be alone for half an hour. Then it hit. Later they said it was a six on the Richter scale. It felt like a ten. It lasted for about thirty seconds. It felt like days. I had never felt an earthquake before. I was alone. The phone was ringing thirty seconds after it stopped, and I thought it would be Rita, my sixty-something nanny that wouldn’t even know it if I drank a bottle of bleach. It was Casey. He said his mom was worried about me, but even at ten I knew that that was complete bullshit. Nobody has that tone of voice when they’re calling on behalf of their mother. If they’re calling on behalf of their mother, they wouldn’t offer to stay with you until somebody came home.

                This is Casey. See his amazing-ness.


‘What the hell, Batman?” Casey says. I grin and lean against his chest.


                Twenty minutes later we’re in Casey’s Explorer driving to JC’s house. We’re doing this dance-exhibition-thingy on Friday, and we’ve practiced four days a week for the past six weeks. We’re dancing in pairs. I’m with Casey. I love dancing with Casey. You have to dance with him to know what it’s like to actually dance with him. This guy JC is working with a girl I know only as The Girl Who Works at Ground Zero. We call him JC because he legit looks like Jesus. This guy from my school Ben is dancing with some Goth chick who scares people at this fro-yo place Casey took me to one time. And then there’s this one girl Liana who’s on parole for tagging. She’s dancing with her boy/girlfriend Sam. It’s pretty strange- he’s a gender-queer bisexual. I think that means he has, like four times the potential options as a heterosexual. They’re the closest things any of us has to friends.

                “Hey,” Casey pulls me back in the car as I’m getting out, “Don’t tell anyone. Alright?”

                “What, you ashamed?” His eyes get all big and nervous. He leans over and kisses me on the forehead and I blush uncontrollably.

                “No, no, no, no, no. I just wanna do something that’ll freak ‘em out.” He smiles at me, and I just roll my eyes.

                It’s pretty awesome ‘because Casey and I are the leads. He gets to wear a black jacket with coattails and I have a ripped-up, Sharpie-covered black dress and those black Converse boots. Swag. I’m pretty good, but Casey’s friggin’ unbelievable. The dance is pretty cool. We’re, like, this tango/step/hip-hop/break dance kind of thing. We put together about a minute of “We Don’t Speak No Americano,” (not the Lady Gaga one, damnit) and the intro/first chorus to “We Will Rock You.” I love Queen. The hip-hop is this song from the Step Up 3 soundtrack and I know the name of the last one but it has to come to me. The whole thing lasts about ten minutes. The tango is sexy. I like dancing with Casey. I mean, it’s just dancing. If it were anyone else I wouldn’t even think about it, but it’s…it’s him, alright! Aagh!

                It goes by fast. We’ve been practicing so hard we’re perfect. I mean, we’re only doing this for tips and ‘cuz it’s fun, but it’d be nice if a lot of people saw. We’ve put up flyers in almost every shop in San Diego, in a couple concert halls, even in the grocery store. We really have nothing better to do.

                In the last second of the song, Casey does this kind of weird systematic fall I’ll never understand the mechanics of, and I land perfectly on top of him just like the other couples, and when I finally get down I’m breathing hard. The way we’re set up, everyone is looking at us. Casey picks up his head and kisses me on the lips, and I lose whatever breath I had left.

                “Holy shit!” JC says rather blatantly.

                “What?” Casey says innocently. “We did the dance just like we were supposed to do.” JC starts laughing. I pull Casey to his feet.

                “Holy shit, you suck!” Ground Zero yells. She walks over and punches Casey in the stomach. It sounds like it hurts.

                “Abby, she’s hurting me!” Casey cries, leaning his head on my chest and pretending to cry. I pet his head and kiss his forehead.

                “It’s okay, the bad girl’s gone.” I murmur.

                “You totally took her away from me,” JC says teasingly, and kisses me on the cheek. He’s twenty-five, I might add. Statutory.

                “Yeah, what’s the deal?” Ben smiles, and I mouth at him, ‘no, no!’ He takes my head in both his bear-hands and kisses me loudly on the cheek. Casey turns his head and makes loud sobbing noises into my cleavage. This dress is a little low. I just pet his head. Sam comes over to me, and I’m horrified. He’s, like, the friggin’ Hulk. I don’t stand a chance. Sam comes right behind Casey and wraps his big arms around the both of us, squashing Casey’s face against my barely-B’s. He wasn’t complaining. Sam leans into my face over Casey’s head and grins in this weird seductive-purr kind of way (you have to see The Neighbors to get that reference). He gives me the biggest, loudest, moaning- and-grinding kiss on the lips that has ever been given without warrant.

                At least rapists are quiet about it.

                Casey lets go of my waist and rams his elbow into Sam’s six-pack. When he doubles over, Casey whirls around and roundhouses him in the chest and Sam falls to his knees. Casey tackles him and pins him on his stomach.

                Those idiots should’ve known better…

                “I won’t do it again, man!” Sam says desperately. “I’m happy for you. I knew you liked her. I’ll keep my hands off her! Now let me go!” Brains over brawn, darling….That’s why there are boys in the military like Steve Rogers who weigh ninety pounds that always get underestimated.

“That’s what I thought you said.” Casey says, getting up. He gives Sam a hand.

                “Yeah, it’s you that I really want.” Sam leans in and kisses Casey on the cheek, and Casey just glares at him.

                “He’s not worth it, keep calm and dance on,” I giggle. That sounded lame.

                “You’re an idiot,” He smirks.

                “We’re all idiots. Kinda why we’re here,”


                What’s-her-face offers to buy us fro-yo, but we turn it down. I almost lose it when JC calls me out on wanting some action. Grrrr…..

                I shower when I get home. When I come back out front Casey’s sitting just where he was this morning, somewhere in the middle of The Walking Dead marathon.

                “Come here,” He pats the space in between his legs. I sit in front of him, leaning back on his chest. He hugs me hard from behind.

                “I guess I really have time to make up,” He says, laughing.

                “Yep,” He kisses my cheek hard, and I can’t help giggling.

“What’s different about this?” I ask after a while, leaning back against his shoulder. I look back at him.

“We’re out in the open about it. I don’t have to pretend like I’m not absolutely stone crazy about you.” His arms tighten around me.

“You could’ve just said it earlier. I thought I was the only one.”

“Believe me, I was a goner first.” His lips are warm against my cheek.

“You’re warm,” I mutter. I’m tired. That was a long practice.

“You’re fun to hug.” I look up again to see nothing but a smile. It’s blinding. It’s like seeing God. I turn around to face him. He holds me tighter, his hand at the back of my neck.

“You know what else is different now?” Casey whispers.

“What?” I say. His lips are perfect when they touch mine. This is what I’ve dreamed about for- well, I don’t know when I started thinking about it, I just did one day. I grin against his lips and lean into him.

“I don’t have to just daydream about doing that.” He sighs, running his hand through my short hair. “I should go shower.”

I shake my head, “in a little bit.” I insist. We kiss. We hold each other. For a while all we do is stare. He’s so beautiful.

“You should’ve moved in on me on your birthday,” I say against the side of his face. His sunken cheek fits the palm of my hand perfectly.

He chuckles, “Famous last words,”


He brushes the shaved part of my head, “Yeah?”

“Even if we don’t work out, would you leave?” His smile fades. He leans in close to my face, insisting I look at him. I’m dangerously close to hypnotism.

“I’ll do everything I have to just to keep you, Abby. I’ve liked you since I was fourteen, damnit. I’m going to keep you if it’s all I can do. Even on the miniscule, less-than-one-thousandth chance that we don’t work out, I’m not leaving you. I’m never gonna have anyone like you, Abby, and I’m definitely not stupid enough to give that all up. Deal?” He holds his pinkie out.

“Pinkie-swear,” I lock pinkies with him. I pull him closer, grinning.

“Pinkie-swear,” He agrees. I kiss him on the lips, turning my head to fit into him. He runs his hand behind my back, his hand brushing the bar piercing in my ear.

Finally he says he can smell himself now, so I let him go.

“You need any help let me know.” I call. He howls. He takes his shirt off as he walks down the hall. I whistle.

I relax back into the couch and smile to myself so wide I look like Chuckey’s bride. I hear the shower turn on. I honestly try to watch TV or draw but I’m thinking too hard. I get up finally and go to the kitchen to get something to eat.

Three steps in the earthquake hits.

It’s so startling I fall to my knees. I scramble to the wall. Shit’s falling but I don’t see what. I close my eyes, trying not to freak out. God, it’s bad. I hear glass break like a gunshot and I scream. The panic’s setting in fast. I’m shaking, and I just huddle in a ball. I’m alone. I’ll always be alone, and one day something’s gonna fall and crush me but nobody will give a shit. It’s been six years. This’ll just happen again. Why don’t I just crawl into the kitchen and wait for the fridge to tip over, or the knives to fall, or the wires to short out and the overhead light to fall on me? So many options…

“Abby! Abby!” I hear distant shouting. “Abby!” It’s coming closer. “ABBY, GODDAMMIT ANSWER ME!” He yells. I hear stuff crashing even after everything is still. All is so scarily silent. Finally he appears, falling to his knees by me. He holds the sides of my head with shaky hands.

“Abby, are you alright?” He whispers, shaking me. I’m crying. I can’t look up. “Abby, it’s okay. Come on, we better get out of here.”

There’s only one thing I can do- bolt. I run to the bathroom and lock the door behind me. It’s still steamy and the mirror is fogged up. It smells like him in here. I cry harder. I sob and scream and slam my fists against the tile until my knuckles bleed. Casey doesn’t say a word, but I can hear him breathing right outside the door. I comb my hair out of my eyes. I can’t do this anymore. This is only going to happen again. Over and over again. I want this to be over with.

I think about cutting myself with Casey’s razor, but I smell gas.

Of course the pipes would break. There’s a gas leak. The carbon monoxide could kill me in minutes, and all I’ll do is fall asleep. The other times didn’t work because I made it too hard. I scramble to open the vents. I stuff the window with a towel. I can smell the gas. The room will fill with it. It’ll get me but Casey will be smart enough to get out of here.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t with you, Abby.” Casey whispers through the crack in the door. I can see his eye pressed against it. “I-I couldn’t help it. I’m here, okay? I-I’m here. Stop crying, Abby, please. It’s okay.” He pauses. “You know I’ll always be there for you.” His voice is half-angry and half-desperate. I don’t want him to get hurt, but I can’t do this anymore.

“Abby, please. Say something.” He pleads. He knows exactly what I have in mind.

“You better go.” I say hoarsely. I struggle to swallow the lump in my throat. I lean up against the door and hug my arms around myself. The gas is getting stronger. I’m getting dizzy. Not much longer.

“I can’t. Abby, you actually think I can leave you? You’re all I have. I don’t have family, I don’t have friends. You’re my best friend, you’re the only one who knows my birthday, and I only have you to wake up to every morning. If it weren’t for you, I’d be gone way before now. All of it’s on you.” I put my fingers up to the crack in the door frame and his meet mine. Heat radiates off of him. I want to hold him again. I want to kiss him again. For six whole years there was just us, and that was my reason to stay. That’s been my reason for six years now, but I can’t go through this again.

“You better find someone else, then.” I say coldly. I can’t help it. He needs to find someone else. I’m just run out. I waited too long and now I don’t work anymore.

He starts crying. Like, really crying. It’s miserable. New tears roll down my cheeks. He pulls his hand away and I’m cold again.

“Please, Abby,” He says brokenly, “Please, I need you. I need you to stay here with me. I need you, Abby, please.” He cries.

“I can’t do it.”

He screams. This sound of complete rage and misery. He sounds mad. I’m really dizzy now. My eyes are starting to close on their own. I cough. The carbon monoxide alarm is beeping, but I’m deaf to it.

“Then I’m not leaving you. I’m staying.”


“Why? If you’re gonna be so selfish, why can’t I?” He says. “Please, just let me in. I want to die with you. I want to be with you.” This is the final demand. All he wants. He’s letting me give up finally and this is all I have to pay for it. I hesitate, but I really want it, too.

“Okay,” I stand and unlock the door, and he rushes in. He grabs onto me fiercely and pulls me toward him, his back against the door. Burying his face in my hair, he rocks me against him softly. He looks miserable. Wretched. Strangely calm. He sits down in front of the door and pulls me into his lap. No more is said. He wraps his arms around me as tight as he can and just holds me. This is alright. I can die like this.

“I love you, Abby.” He whispers, his voice breaking. He brushes my bangs away from my face.

“I love you, Casey.” I lay my head on his shoulder, and whatever space there was between us is squeezed out. We’re one. I close my eyes finally, thinking, I wish I had told you that earlier.

The little asshole carries me out.