Authors: Amy Sparling
Oh my god. I’ve been embarrassed several times in my life. Getting bullied on the playground in fourth grade because my pants were “high waters” and then getting bullied even more because I didn’t know what high waters meant. Going out in public with guys Mom’s dated over the years, watching them get rip-roaring drunk at some little café and then having us get kicked out for causing a scene.
None of those instances equal the amount of humiliation that flows through me now. I am sitting at a kitchen table with Jett. His mom is sitting across from us, her fingers laced together on the table. He gives me this encouraging smile like I’m supposed to trust him. Yeah, right.
“So . . . you say you just let her spend the night?” Mrs. Adams asks her son.
Jett sighs. “For the millionth time, yes. I ran into her at McDonalds and she said her mom wasn’t back yet. She had nowhere to go and I didn’t want her to be fucking homeless so I brought her here.”
“Language,” Mrs. Adams says. There’s a quick knock on the back door and then it swings open and Becca enters and I swear my humiliation gets about ten times worse.
“Honey,” she says, walking straight to me. She throws an arm around me and pulls me into a hug. She smells like cinnamon rolls and I’ve never been more confused. Shouldn’t she be yelling at me?
“Aren’t I in trouble?” I ask when she finally releases her grip on me.
Mrs. Adams laughs. “My son is in trouble, not you.”
“Mom!” Jett says, slapping his hands on the granite counter. “I was just helping out a friend.
the one who told me to be nice to her and help show her around town.”
“Yeah, but I can’t have my sixteen-year-old having girls sleep in his bed,” she says, giving him one of those classic Mom looks.
“So what exactly happened?” Becca asks, squeezing my hand while she takes a seat on the barstool next to me.
Jett decides to tell the story. “I ran into Keanna at McDonalds. Her mom is MIA and I didn’t want her to be alone so I told her to come stay with us.”
“That was very kind of you, Jett.”
Mrs. Adams clears her throat. “It
kind, but then Jace found them curled up in bed together this morning.”
Becca laughs. “I almost don’t believe that,” she says, eyeing me. “You seemed to think Jett was a little bit of a jerk last time I talked to you.”
My cheeks are so read they’re probably in danger of catching on fire. “What can I say? I needed a place to sleep.”
“You’ll stay with us,” Becca says. “I got your note and it broke my heart, kiddo. You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you want. Actually,” she says, holding up an intimidating finger to me. “I demand it. You’d be safe with Jett but I don’t think his parents quite approve.”
Mrs. Adams playfully slaps Becca on the arm. “Don’t make me the bad guy here! If you had a daughter would you let her sleep in Jett’s room with him?”
Becca pretends to consider this. “Didn’t we always daydream about having kids close in age so they could grow up and marry each other?”
Jett groans, rolling his eyes like he’s heard this story a million times and his mom laughs.
“You’re supposed to be on my side,” she tells her best friend. “Keanna, you’ll stay with Becca and Park until we hear from your mom.”
“And no more running away,” Becca says, wagging that finger at me again.
“Okay . . . I guess,” I say, but it ends up sounding like a question.
Jett looks over at me and gives me this assuring look that makes my stomach flutter. Every instinct I have is telling me to deny their help and grab my things and run away again. But Jett’s dark blue gaze has me frozen to the barstool. As much as I may want to leave, I know there’s really nowhere else to go. And I don’t want to leave Jett.
There, I said it.
Now I have to find a way to make those feelings go away.
It’s like another freaking episode of some perfect family TV show after everything settles down. Mrs. Adams, who now insists that I call her Bayleigh since Becca goes by her first name (and apparently calling her
makes her feel old) makes us lunch and we sit around and eat it just like we had for breakfast the other day.
Only the men aren’t here this time. They’re already working at the track next door. Jett complains a million times about how he doesn’t want to work the little kid lock-in tonight because, according to him, kids are sticky and whiney and they’re so slow on a dirt bike that it makes the whole thing boring.
I’m really surprised that I’m not in more trouble. My mom is pretty lax about things, hell she’d probably love it if I decided to move in with a guy so I’d be out of her hair, but I’d expected Jett’s parents to be more uptight about the whole thing. Since everything else in his life is like one perfect American family movie, I guess I thought he’d be grounded and I’d be escorted off the property like an embarrassing incident they’d rather sweep under the rug.
I guess people can surprise you when you’re not expecting it.
“I gotta get to work in about ten minutes,” Jett says, taking my empty plate and carrying it over to the dishwasher. Becca and Bayleigh have moved into the breakfast nook and they’re both pouring over some magazine that features Becca’s artwork. They’ve gone just far enough away to give us some time to talk, but close enough that we know they’re still watching.
“Let me take your stuff over to Becca’s for you,” Jett says, flashing me this smile that makes my insides tighten up and twist around, like there’s a little monster in there trying to fight his way out.
“It’s okay, I can do it.” I head back to his room with Jett on my heels. As I make my way toward his closet, he dives in front of me and slips inside, grabbing my bags. “Ha!” he says triumphantly, holding my suitcase and duffel bag up in the air. “I win.”
I put my hands on my hips. If the flimsy duffel bag rips open and spills all of my pathetic belongings. I might die of embarrassment. “Give it here.”
“No, I’m taking it over for you.”
I sigh and reach for my bag. He holds it up out of my reach, his muscles flexing under the weight of all of my earthly possessions.
“Don’t be an asshole,” I say, feeling all of those happy thoughts from earlier slip away. I know he’s teasing me, but it’s starting to feel a lot like being in school, where guys do this shit all the time.
“I’m taking your bags and you’re going to like it,” Jett says. He pushes past me and heads outside, all while I’m following him, but failing to catch up.
In the guest bedroom at Becca’s house, he drops my bags and then stands, hands on hips as he gazes out at the room. “There. Job well done.”
“You’re a jerk,” I say, grabbing my suitcase and pulling it away from him. Anger fills me up and I latch onto it, preferring the feel of being pissed off to those earlier feelings that were strangely like having a crush. I will
let myself feel things like that for this guy. He is not my type at all. He’ll only screw me over, or make fun of me to his rich friends, just like every other guy like him. I made a mistake going home with him last night, and I guess I’ll just blame that on being delirious from too much fast food, a sugary milkshake, and a lack of sleep.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jett says, his face falling. He reaches for me and I back up.
“Just get out. Seriously.”
“Really?” He looks hurt, but then he replaces the look with a smirk. “Don’t I at least get a thank you or something?”
“Why the hell would I thank you? You took my stuff without my permission! You carried it over here against my wishes and you lorded your strength over me like you’re superior and I’m just the pathetic girl who has to do what you say. That’s not cool. And I’m definitely not thanking you for it.”
The hurt on his face is real, and I love the satisfaction I get from seeing him verbally bitch-slapped.
“Wow, um. I’m sorry, Keanna. I was just messing with you.”
“Your definition of messing is my definition bullying.”
Jett runs a hand down his face, his brows pulling together in thought. “You’re right. I’m so sorry. I really meant no harm.”
“I don’t care. Just go.”
“But I don’t want to leave things between us like this,” he says, scratching the back of his neck. “Can I make it up to you?”
“Yeah, you can leave and never come back,” I snap. “Go make out with girls in supply closets or whatever the hell you did before you met me and made me your charity case. I don’t need your help, Jett.”
He swallows and his Adam’s apple bobs. His chest rises as he breathes in and it makes him look a foot taller. “Okay, then. Bye.”
I close the door behind him and twist the lock. Becca had said she’d be back over here in an hour or so. But for now I’m alone, and all I want to do is sleep and pretend I am somewhere far away from here.
I am not all about this summer. This summer actually kind of sucks. I’ve spent my entire life at this track, all day every day, after school, every holiday. Only now that I’m working here, the place has become my nemesis.
Maybe I’m still pissed off about Keanna choosing to cut me out of her life so quickly. Whatever the case, I am not in a good mood.
I walk around the track, keeping to the areas between the jumps as I bend down and turn on each sprinkler I come across. The entire track is lined with them, massive sprinkler nozzles that shoot water onto the dirt. We have to water the track down a lot during the summer because the hot, dry air keeps turning the track into dust. No one rides well on dust.
I kick at a hard clump of dirt as I make my way to the next sprinkler, holding onto my shirt as I bend down to turn it on. I’ve been getting somewhat of a “farmer’s tan” on my chest and arms from wearing a shirt at work so I took it off and have it draped over my shoulder. I’m not going to let this job turn me into a weirdly-tanned freak. I have somewhat of a hotness reputation to uphold.
What was the word Becca used?
I am all about girls who are all about me, but ever since Keanna kicked me to the curb a week ago—yeah, it’s been a whole week—I haven’t quite bounced back.
I glance over at the Park’s house as I turn around a jump and twist another sprinkler on. It’s so far away I can’t really see anything, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I’d see her walking in the backyard, picking wildflowers.
Here I am inventing cute little things for her to do, and she won’t even talk to me. How the hell would I know if she likes wildflowers? Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s got a new boyfriend now. I wouldn’t know. She completely shut me out and I’ve been too embarrassed by the whole thing to ask my parents if she’s still staying over there.
I really hadn’t meant to piss her off so much when I took her suitcase. I was just trying to be a gentleman.
But maybe that right there is my problem. I’m a player. A no-strings-attached kind of guy. I’m not exactly the world’s leading expert on all things Mr. Darcy-esque, so it makes sense that when I tried to be gentlemanly, it blew up in my face.
I breathe a sigh, long and slow, as all of the air in my lungs deflates until my chest is at the same sunken level as my heart. For the millionth time since the day Keanna kicked me out of her room at Park’s house, I tell myself to get the hell over it. Suck it up, Jett. Move on. Call up one of the billion girls in your contacts list and have one come over to hook up.
But I can’t. And this last week might have been the longest I’ve gone without a girl’s lips on mine.
I turn on another sprinkler and curse when the blast of cold water hits me right in the face. I’d been so caught up in daydreaming (i.e.- obsessing) over Keanna’s rejection that I hadn’t paid attention to where I was standing. And now I’m soaked.
My teeth grit together and I stand up, using my shirt to dry off. That’s it. Keanna doesn’t want anything to do with me and I will no longer sit around here like a pansy with my head in the clouds. I won’t pine after some girl who hates me. I’ll throw myself back out there and get a firsthand reminder of why I don’t do relationships.
I finish turning on the sprinklers, making sure I’m on the right side of the spray nozzles, and then set an alarm for an hour from now to remind me to turn them off.
Once I’m back at the track, I flip open my contacts list and scroll. Although Emma would jump at the chance to come over, I’m kind of sick of her. After a few minutes of scrolling through girl’s names, I hit up Facebook instead. I type: Boreedddd.
And then I shove my phone back in my pocket. With any luck, someone will invite me out to do something. So what if it’s a Thursday—it’s summertime.
After work, I head into the main office to get a snack out of the mini-fridge Mom keeps behind the front counter. All the riding lessons are done for the day so thankfully there’s no customers or kid’s parents loitering inside. Thursdays are usually early close days for us so I open a can of Sunkist and plop down on one of the barstools at the front counter. I worked my ass off today. I feel more exhausted than when I spend the whole day riding. Dirt bikes take a lot of endurance and strength, but it’s a kind of strength I know by heart. Pulling the throttle and kicking the bike into another gear comes naturally to me now. It’s all muscle memory and when I’m riding the bike around the track, it’s a full body workout that feels more like playing. I love every second of it. I do
love the manual labor I did today.
Dad walks in talking on his phone. He hangs up a second later and then grins at me. “Ready for your first paycheck?” he says, handing me a folded piece of paper.
“Not really,” I say in a joking tone as I open the paper. “Now you and Mom are gonna make me buy my own stuff.”
Dad laughs. “Yep. That’s the beauty of making your kid get a job.”
“Wow, two hundred bucks,” I say, ripping the check off at the perforated edges. “Not bad.”
Before Dad can say anything, Mom calls his name from somewhere down the hall.
“Shit, she sounds like there’s some drama going on,” Dad says, rolling his eyes before he walks away.
I can hear Becca’s voice saying hi to Dad and suddenly whatever drama they’re discussing I want to be a part of. Carefully, I slide off the stool and walk down the hallway, making my shoes step as quietly as possible over the black and white checkerboard tiles.
Becca, Mom, and Dad are talking in the kid’s playroom. It started out as a daycare when I was a little kid, but now it’s kind of a lounge area for kids, teens, and parents. There’s couches and TVs and stuff in there. I walk up to the doorway, pressing my back against the wall so I can eavesdrop.
Becca’s talking. “It’s been a week now, and I just don’t know what to do.”
“Her mom isn’t answering the phone at all?” Mom says.
“Most the time it goes straight to voicemail but sometimes it’ll ring, so that must mean her phone is on, right?” Becca says.
“So what are you gonna do?” Dad asks. “Call the cops?”
“What!” Becca sounds offended. “Why would I do that? The girl isn’t a criminal, Jace.”
“Yeah, but,” Dad says, slower now. He’s probably trying not to piss her off anymore. “Maybe you should report the lady as a missing person or something. Or turn the girl into child services since she’s a minor.”
“No, I won’t kick her out,” Becca says. “I actually like having another girl around. Makes me think of the kid I never had. It’s fun having someone to hang out with and she’s a sweet kid, Jace. She really is.”
“Oh we had a blast when we went shopping,” Mom says. “That girl can eat a lot.”
What? When did my mother go shopping with Keanna? And why wasn’t I informed?
Becca laughs. “I keep telling her my goal is to make her gain ten pounds. Shouldn’t be too hard. Every time I make food she acts like she hasn’t eaten in weeks, the poor thing.”
“I think you should give it more time,” Mom says. “She doesn’t have anywhere else to go and you don’t want the cops involved. They’ll just put her in some kind of home.”
“Hey, don’t give me that look,” Dad says and I picture him holding up his hands in surrender to the two women in front of him. “I was just trying to be helpful. God, I don’t want the girl in a home or anything. I’m just worried about her mom.”
My stomach clenches and I turn away, quietly walking back to the front office. I don’t want to hear anymore. It’s bad enough that I already have a crush on a girl who hates me, so I don’t need to add feeling sorry for her to that list. Maybe her mom will come back soon and everything will be okay. Maybe by the time school starts in the fall, she’ll have forgiven me and maybe we can be friends again.
I call D’andre on my walk home, but he’s already committed to seeing some dumbass kid movie with his little brother tonight. He invites me along but I pass. Sure, I love movie popcorn but sitting through some brightly colored, extra loud little kid movie would be more like torture. I’m not that desperate for companionship. Maybe I’ll just play the Xbox all night.
I walk up the two steps onto the back patio and a small cough startles me. I look up to find Jacey Hamilton sitting in one of the patio chairs, a beach towel strung across her lap and a sexy smirk on her lips. She’s got long blonde hair and she’s a little chubby, but in all the right places. Her ass and tits are amazing, and she knows this judging by the bikini she’s wearing under a see-through mesh tank top.
“Can I help you?” I ask, stopping when I’m standing right in front of her, invading her personal space. She peers up at me and pokes her lips out. The thing with Jacey is that she is all about harmless hookups. You never have to worry about this girl sending you a million emotional texts the next day. She’s casual. She’s fun. And I haven’t seen her in a while, not since Emma scared her off at the Spring Fling school dance.
“I saw your Facebook post,” she says. “Figured I’d come over and take you for a swim.”
I grin. “Without even texting first to see if I’d be free?”
She stands and her boobs press into my chest. She tosses the towel over the back of the patio chair, making sure to let her butt graze up against me when she turns. “I took a chance. So what do you say?”
I shrug. After spending all day in this hot ass sun, the pool actually sounds like a great idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.
I toss my shirt to the deck and empty my phone and keys from my pockets. I’m already in board shorts so I give her an evil eye wiggle. “Last one in has to rub the other’s shoulders.”
Her eyes go wide and then we take off running. But I’m closer and faster, my long legs far quicker than her short ones, so when I dive into the pool head first, I know I’ve won.
Jacey’s glaring at me when I bob back up from the water. “So not fair. You cheated.”
I gasp like I’m totally offended. “Did not. I can’t help it that your little kid legs don’t take you very fast.”
“Hey, I’m the same age as you,” she says, swimming over to me. Her hair looks brown now that it’s all wet. I get a sudden flash of what Keanna’s hair looked like wet, sprawled out over her face while she laid in my bed. I have to blink it away and tell myself to focus on the girl in front of me. The girl who actually wants me . . . well, as much as you can want a casual hookup.
“So what’s been up with you?” Jacey says, treading water in front of me. We’re right where the water gets about six feet deep so my feet touch but hers don’t.
I shake my head. “Nope. No talking. You owe me a shoulder rub.”
She rolls her eyes and then grabs my arm, using my body as an anchor to pull herself around. She wraps her legs around my waist and then grabs my shoulders and starts rubbing them. I close my eyes. “Holy shit, you’re good at this.”
“Enjoy it cause I’m not doing this forever,” she snaps, digging her thumbs into my shoulders. “So, like I said, what’s been up?”
“Not a damn thing. I’m working at the track now, so my life has become motocross and then more motocross.”
“Hasn’t that always been your life?” she says.
“Yeah, but before I had a job I at least had
free time. Now it’s work work work, ride work ride and then work again.”
She giggles while she rubs the tension out of my shoulders. “I bet Emma hates that.”
I groan without even realizing it. Jacey stops and leans over my shoulder to look at me. “Uh oh, trouble in paradise?”
“Okay, don’t make me kick you out of this pool,” I say, giving her my best mean glare. “Emma and I are
“Yeah, yeah. If she had her way, you would be. I’m proud of you for holding your ground.”
“You might be the only one,” I say, taking her hand and pulling her around so that we’re face to face again. The massage felt great but I feel bad using her like that.
“I don’t really like Emma that much,” Jacey says. The corner of her lip curls. “She’s kind of a . . .”
“Bitch?” I suggest and we both start laughing.