Authors: Amy Sparling
I am living two lives. Caught up in two drastically different worlds. My real life, the one I’ve known since I was born, is on a short hiatus, replaced by this shiny new life. And although the new life is only temporary, I make it a point to breathe in a little deeper, to look around me at all times and really take in my surroundings. I am living in the moment, I guess you could say.
And this moment is absolutely perfect.
After a shaky breakfast with strangers where I was left feeling like a white trash loser, I am now back in the safety of this guest bedroom. No one bothers me for a whole two hours.
It’s nearly noon now, and I am laying on my stomach on the guest bed, feet up in the air and remote control in my hand. I am watching TV. Cable TV. Like a normal teenaged girl.
A commercial comes on and I close my eyes and take a deep breath, reveling in the peaceful solace that can be found in your own bedroom.
Of course I know it’s not mine. Nothing is mine except my suitcase and duffel bag and I certainly can’t relax and watch TV inside of a suitcase.
I’ve never even had a mattress that belonged to me. Mom and I either stay in hotels, motels, or fully furnished rent-by-the-month apartments that are usually about ten levels slummier than the motels. This mattress isn’t mine either, but I can pretend that it is. That this one single day is all mine. I glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand behind me and try to do some time calculations to figure out when Mom will get home.
Her interview was in the morning and would probably last until noon. Then she’d be home by six or six-thirty. That means I get a few more hours all to myself.
I try calling Mom’s cell from the land line phone on my nightstand but it goes straight to voicemail. She must still be in her interview. Walking over to the window, I gaze out at the sloping Texas landscape. The guest room window faces the front of the house which overlooks acres of untouched land. Could I really get used to living in a small town like this?
Does Mom mean what she said? Working from home in a place that doesn’t have public transportation and a dozen shopping malls within walking distance? Maybe she’s having a mid-life crisis. Or maybe she’s caught up with some mafia type loan shark and we’re really hiding out here in Lawson as a last resort to avoid having our heads chopped off.
I chuckle to myself at the thought. There’s a soft knock at the door.
“Come in,” I call out, keeping my gaze out of the window.
The door opens and a deep voice startles me. “Uh, hey.”
I spin around. I’d expected Becca, not Jett.
“Hi,” I say, but it comes out sounding like a question. “Why are you here?”
Jett has put on a shirt since I last saw him. The black fabric stretches over his muscular chest, making me want to reach out and touch it. It’s a shame that he’s wearing it at all. Not that I’d ever tell him, but I kind of liked the view this morning at breakfast.
Jett scratches his neck and gazes around the room. “There’s a party down at the lake tonight. I thought you might want to come and meet some people.”
“Why would I want to meet people?” I ask. I realize just half a second later that I’m not being very friendly. But friendliness isn’t my strong suit.
Jett’s eyes bug quickly, but then he recovers. “Uh, well I don’t know. My mom just said I should come over here and ask you.”
“Wow. Usually the pity invites come after people have known me a few days.” I cross my arms. “You know, after they’ve had enough time to feel sorry for my shit life.”
“It’s not like that,” Jett says, running a hand through his dirty blond hair. “I’m just trying to welcome you into town.”
“I don’t need welcoming.” If Jett’s friends are anything like he is, they’ll either try to get in my pants or they’ll go the opposite way and talk shit about my ratty clothing. I don’t need to make friends right now. I need to wait until Mom gets home and figure out what the hell we’re even doing here.
Jett takes a step closer, and although we’re still several feet apart, I step backward. “Look, Keanna,” he says. Something in his voice sounds truly genuine and I almost feel bad for being cold toward him. “Did I do something to make you hate me? Because I feel like you hate me.”
I shrug. “I don’t hate you. I just don’t know you.”
“So you should get to know me,” he says, throwing on this sideways grin that probably wins him a lot of hearts. God knows my heart starts to weaken when I see it. So I look away. Jett continues, running his fingers across the top of the TV stand. “You’ll probably think I’m cool if you just get to know me.”
“That’s a little presumptive,” I mutter. “Maybe you aren’t as charming as you think you are.”
He smirks. “You’d be the first to think that.”
I can’t even come up with a witty reply here, so I walk over to the armchair in the corner and grab a book off the shelf next to it.
“Thanks and all but . . . no thanks,” I say, sitting and opening the book to the first page. “You can go now.”
“You should really come. I could drive us.”
“I’m sure you’ll have so many girls hanging off your arm that you wouldn’t even notice if I did go,” I say.
He grins and he doesn’t even try to deny it. “If you’d like my entire attention for the night . . . well that can be arranged.”
“It’s killing you that I am not falling over myself trying to hook up with you, huh?” I chuckle and roll my eyes. “I hate to break it to you, Jett, but I’m not some dumbass bimbo whose brain turns to mush when I’m near a hot guy.”
“Your point has been made,” Jett says. “Sorry I offended you with my invitation.”
He turns and lets himself out of my temporary guest bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Even though I might never see him again, I feel the slightest stab of regret for treating him so poorly. Maybe he was just trying to be nice.
But I’ve known enough guys in my life to know that very rarely is that ever the case.
“Have you heard from Dawn?” Becca asks over a plate of spaghetti for dinner. I shake my head.
“I think her phone probably died. She’s always forgetting the charger. But it’s already seven-ten so I guess she’ll be here soon.”
Becca nods, twisting the pasta around her fork. “I hate how phones don’t last very long these days. My battery lasts maybe five hours if I’m lucky.”
She’s being all nice and welcoming still, but I know we’re both wondering what’s taking my mom so long to get here. Thoughts of news reports saying she’s been in a car wreck scare me, but I know my mother. She’s a little unpredictable but she’s not a bad driver. She probably met some guy and he’s having dinner with her right now. I just hope she hurries back. I hate being an imposition.
After dinner, I help Becca wash the dishes. Her husband had some meeting with the neighbors about their track business stuff so he wasn’t at dinner.
“I washed your clothes from yesterday,” Becca says, scrubbing the garlic bread pan with a sponge. “They’re on your bed. If you’d like to shower before you leave, I figured you could use a clean outfit to change into.”
“Thanks,” I say with a smile. “You’ve been so nice to me and I really appreciate you letting me stay here.”
“Oh it’s no problem at all,” she says, adding more hot water to the sink. “I can’t wait to hear about Dawn’s new job. I think she’ll probably be able to get my artwork in some new locations after this.”
I nod. “Totally.”
“Well, Keanna,” Becca says after we’ve finished the dishes and split a pack of Little Debbie snack cakes, “I have to babysit for a woman from my spin class, so I’ll be gone until midnight or so. It’s her and her husband’s date night. But you make yourself at home while you wait for Dawn, okay?”
After a quick shower and about ten more phone calls that go straight to Mom’s voicemail, I start to open up the possibility of what I hadn’t let myself believe before. Mom won’t be back today. She’s probably on a mini vacation, taking advantage of the kindness of strangers to watch her kid for her. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time Mom promised a day and came back a week later.
I feel like such an idiot. A burden on society and all of that. I call Mom’s phone one more time and when the voicemail beep sounds, I leave her a message instead of hanging up.
“Hey Dawn, it’s me. Your kid. I guess you thought that Becca and Park wouldn’t mind you staying gone more than one day but I refuse to be the kind of person who overstays their welcome. When you’re ready to come back and get me, you’ll find me at that motel we stayed in two nights ago. Don’t worry about how I’ll pay for it. I have your credit card in my bag.”
She’s going to be pissed at me for wasting money on the one and only credit card we have, but maybe this will make her come home quicker.
I clean up any trace of my existence, make the bed in the guest bedroom and turn off the television.
I write a thank you note for Becca. And then I get the hell out of there.
The sun is beginning to set, which means everyone is already heading out to the lake. Lake Lawson is small, only big enough for some jet skis instead of real boats, but it’s about the only place worth going to in this town. At least until I’m old enough to legally drink. We do have plenty of bars.
I’m still thinking about her when it’s time to clock out of work. I ride the pit bike back to my house while thinking of her. She’s on my mind when I jump in the shower and when I’m choosing clothes to wear, I picture her face in the back of my mind. Not only does this girl seem to hate me, she doesn’t even want to get to know me to verify that fact.
I don’t know what I did to make her so hostile toward me. She clearly needs a friend.
It would have been fun if she’d come with me to the lake. Sure, I would have had to dodge Emma and a few other girls, but I’m sure I’d be able to park my truck in a secluded section of sandbar and find a way to win her over.
Maybe she’s right. Maybe it does bother me that she doesn’t want me. Okay, it’s not a maybe. I stare at my reflection in the mirror as I run some gel through my hair. Girls always like me. I inherited my dad’s good looks and Mom says I got her charming personality. I’m not trying to be vain here, but it is what it is. I work out, I’m tan, and I look like my dad. Older women love my dad. Jace Adams is still a big name in the motocross world even though he hasn’t raced professionally since before I was born.
I’ve seen the looks my mom gets when other women are gawking over Dad. She always tells me that it’s okay to date around now, but when I find a girl I really like, I need to chill out and let her be the only one. Mom is really sweet like that. But she’s wrong about one thing—I may be charming but I do not have her personality.
I don’t want to settle down. So why can’t I get Keanna off my mind?
Is it because I can’t have her?
Doesn’t that make me a fucking jackass in every possible sense of the word?
Shit. My reflection grimaces at myself. I am a jackass. I saw a pretty girl at Becca’s house and when she didn’t throw herself at me, I got upset about it. I spent the last however many hours lamenting over this girl, wondering what I could have done or said to make her like me. I am definitely a jackass.
I draw in a deep breath and let it out. Flex my wrists and roll my head to loosen my neck. Get a grip, Jett. I don’t want to be a disrespectful prick. If Keanna doesn’t like me then she doesn’t like me. It’s fine. I’ll settle for hooking up with the girls who do like me.
It’s not like there aren’t tons of them.
Keanna’s words reply in my head.
It’s killing you that I am not falling over myself trying to hook up with you, huh?
Hearing her say that had hurt, but she was right. I’ve never been rejected in my life. Guess there’s a first time for everything.
All the usual people are at the lake when I arrive. Most of them are older than I am, but I’ve known these guys since I was a little kid so they’re cool with letting me chill with them. Plus, they bring beer. I park my truck on the edge of the lake, right near the road in case I decide to make a quick exit tonight. I’ve already made a pact with myself that I’d stop thinking about Keanna and let myself get lost in the party vibe, but just in case it doesn’t work, I might want to bail. Nothing kills a party vibe like asking your friends to move their trucks so you can get out.
I grab a beer and fist bump D’andre, one of my buddies from the track. He’s a senior this year and has a good chance of making it to the professional motocross circuit if he keeps winning races.
“Hey man,” D’andre says, crunching his empty beer can and tossing it into the bed of his truck. “Are you actually alone tonight?”
I lift my shoulders, cocky grin in full force. “Just because I always leave with a girl doesn’t mean I have to arrive with one.”
He throws his head back and laughs. “I feel you man, I feel you.”
We sit on his tailgate and drink and catch up on what’s been going on since summer started. He hasn’t been out at my dad’s track much lately but that’s because he’s been training over at Mixon Motocross Park, working with a professional scout. I hope I’ll be there as well when I’m a year older. All I need to do is keep working out, keep riding, and don’t get hurt. Nothing ruins a racing career like a few cracked ribs or a shattered ankle.
“So you and Emma Clarke, eh?” D’andre says, cracking open another beer can. “She’s fine as hell.”
“We’re not a thing,” I say, shaking my head. I almost expect her to come bouncing up to me, acting like we
a thing, because that’s just how shitty my luck is normally. I glance around just in case, but see nothing but sand and water and people doing their own thing around the various bonfires.
“When are you gonna settle down, man?”
I tilt my head back and chug the last of my beer. I’ve only had one beer tonight so it’s definitely too early to be talking about crap like this. “Uh, never?” I crunch up the can and toss it in the back of D’andre’s truck. I know he recycles them for something like sixty cents a pound so I don’t feel bad for basically littering in his truck.
“You know, some guys would give their left nad to get as many girls as you do, and you don’t even want to keep them.”
“Dude if you’re gonna start feeling sorry for yourself, you’re gonna have to do that somewhere else,” I say, pointing off into the distance to give him an idea of where he could go. “Tonight’s supposed to be fun, not a pity party about why your ugly ass can’t get girls.”
He clenches his chest in mock pain. “Harsh, Adams.”
The voice is soft, feminine, and catches both of us off guard. I turn around and see Maria Gonzalez standing next to D’andre’s truck, a beach towel wrapped round her body.
“Like fuckin’ clockwork,” D’andre says, shaking his head. He reaches for another beer. “Girls can’t stay away from this dude.”
“Shut up, man,” I say low enough that I hope only he can hear. Maria is a quiet girl who takes dirt bike lessons from my dad. She’s not usually the type to try and hook up with me, and besides, the look in her eyes tells me something is wrong.
I hop off the tailgate and follow her around to the front of the truck, where it’s not quiet thanks to the thumping rap music blasting from D’andre’s speakers, but at least it’s private. “What’s up?”
Maria studies me for half a second and then bursts into tears. “I’m sorry.”
“Whoa,” I say, reaching an arm out to her shoulder. “Don’t apologize. What’s wrong?”
She sniffles, wipes the tears from her eyes. I can tell it’s taking a lot out of her to keep her composure right now. “Maria.” I try again. “What is it?”
“Could you maybe take me home?” she whispers, her Spanish accent thicker now that she’s crying again. “Please? I’m so sorry. I don’t live far away.”
“Sure, it’s not a problem,” I say, doing some mental math. I’d only had one beer. I can drive. “Let’s go.”
I wave goodbye to D’andre and don’t bother offering him an explanation. Maria climbs into my truck, turning to the side to kick the sand off her bare feet before she closes the door behind her. She holds the beach towel tightly around her chest.
“Are you . . .” I begin, not really knowing how to finish the sentence without sounding like an ass.
She shakes her head. “I’m in my bathing suit.”
I nod. “Okay. Cool. Where to?”
“County road thirty,” she says, holding back another sob. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry to bother you, I just didn’t know who else I could ask and you seem like a nice guy so . . .”
“Hey, what did I say about apologizing?” I turn to her and try to lighten the mood. “Party was lame as hell. I don’t mind leaving.”
We drive in silence for a few minutes. Some goofy pop song comes on the radio and I sing along, totally off key and missing most of the words and this gets a laugh out of her, which makes me feel like some kind of hero. She points out her driveway and I turn into it, a long gravel strip that leads to a small house.
“Thanks again,” she says.
“It’s no problem. Have a good night.”
I wait in the truck until she’s safely inside her house and although I’ll probably never know why she left the party crying, I hope it’s not because of some guy.
I hope I’ve never made a girl cry like that. A sudden stabbing guilt presses into me, as memories of all the times I’ve drunkenly made out with random girls around the bonfires at parties come back to me. I’ve certainly never seen girls cry in front of me, so that has to be a good thing, right?
Maybe it’s good that Keanna blew me off like she did. God knows I didn’t have the best of intentions in wanting to hang out with her. I kept picturing those soft lips, often curled into a smirk, and imagining what I would be like to kiss them, to run my fingers through her hair, feel her body pressing against mine, wanting more. They always want more.
I’ve been called a great kisser more times than I can count. I know exactly what to do to make a girl’s body tremble beneath my touch. And I hope to God that I’ve never left any of them the way I saw Maria tonight. Dammit. Keanna made the right choice to deny my offer to hang out. She doesn’t exactly seem like the Emma Clarke no-strings-attached type of girl. And those are the only girls I can allow myself to mess around with.
I wish things were different, but I know myself. Even if Keanna was interested enough to actually go out with me, I’d only end up hurting her in the long run. I’m not going to be that type of guy.