Every day of the rest of the school year, I regretted letting him go that day at the garage. I regretted not chasing after him and holding him captive until he explained exactly what the hell he was trying to say. In concise, detailed sentences a woman could decipher.
The months that followed our cryptic conversation left me wishing the silent treatment back because now when Jude passed me in the hall, he was no longer intentionally ignoring me. It was as if I didn’t exist.
I’d gone from something he despised to something he didn’t notice in the space of one conversation that only gave light to more questions.
I turned eighteen last month and was going to graduate next week, and in the fall, I would be a freshman at Juilliard. It was a time to celebrate, to let down my once again long hair and look back at the past with nostalgia and forward to the future with hope.
I was having a tough time implementing that idea and, although I would never allow myself to openly admit the reason why I felt like some lost ship in the night, at the very core of me where things like right and wrong, truth and love existed, I knew why.
“I’m calling time out on your zoning out bouts tonight, Lucy,” Taylor shouted at me over the stereo blasting some song about summer and friends and partying. It was really a terribly cliche song, but I suppose it set the mood for the night. “Tonight is about nothing but having a killer time and being in the moment.”
Sage words coming from a girl that mainly talked about her bright future. “And by that you mean getting smashed and making out with the first piece of ass you see, in the moment?”
Taylor groaned. “And I thought I was a cynic.”
Turning the volume down, I pulled the top of the dress Taylor had stuffed me in up and the bottom of it down. There, now it covered half of my boobs and most of my ass. “Sorry. It just comes so natural when you’ve dressed me like a cheap hooker on her way to work.”
“You’re wearing pearl earrings, for crap’s sake, Lucy,” she said. “Last time I checked, hookers didn’t wear pearls.”
“Fine,” I said, checking my reflection in the mirror for the third time. Could she have added another coat of mascara before my eyelashes snapped in half? “A hooker on her way to church.”
Taylor laughed, staring over at me when we hit a red light. “Jewelry, huh?” she gave me a scandalous look. “Somebody must have been very good, or very naaauw-tie, to get a pair of pearl earrings for a graduation gift.”
“Your depravity never ceases to astound me,” I said, sticking my tongue out. “And the earrings were a graduation gift from my parents, not Sawyer.”
Thank god he hadn’t given me any jewelry yet because I was about three commitment levels below jewelry.
The light flashed green and Taylor gunned her little Volkswagen off the line. “You only have yourself to blame for that. Guys get jewelry for girls as a reward for putting out. It’s a simple fact of life.”
“Again, you are depraved,” I said, rolling down the window. Where I really wanted to be was at the studio, preparing for the next four years of dancing with and against the best. I didn’t want to be crammed in a small car with a high school drama vixen, heading to a graduation party where alcohol would be in endless supply and inhibitions would be in no supply, suctioned into a dress that made a Holly socialite look like a prude.
“Since I’m seeing no diamond pendants or gold bracelets on you, I’m taking it you’re still c*ck blocking Sawyer into a coma?” The shit this girl came up with. It might have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.
“None of your business.”
“So, no,” she assumed, whipping the car down a gravel road.
“So, hell no,” I edited, since she was going to draw conclusions whether I validated them or not.
“Why not?” she asked as we bumped over the potholes. “You guys have been ‘seeing each other’ since Sadie’s and an official item since Winter Formal. Are you guys taking it slow or some stupid shit like that?”
“I’m taking it slow,” I said as the party grounds came into view. I was familiar with the place, the mansion down on the lake. Sawyer’s parents were out of town at some auto auction, so he decided to throw the most epic graduation party that would go down in the books. His words, not mine. From the end of the road, the Diamonds’ place looked like it was crawling with ants. Drunk ants.
“And Sawyer?” Taylor asked with pointed inflection.
“Sawyer’s a guy. Since when have any of them been for taking things slow in that department?”
“Since never,” she said, answering perhaps the most rhetorical question known to woman.
Finding a vacant spot on the grass, Taylor cut the ignition and dabbed on another coat of lip gloss. The satellites were going to be able to pinpoint those lips if she added another glob of that sparkly, shiny goop.
“Taylor, I’m not really feeling this right now,” I said, grabbing her arm. “Let’s get in and get out. There’s going to be nothing but wasted wannabes in there looking to get laid.”
Peaking her brows at me, she smacked her lips. “Exactly.”
“I feel this is the time I should discuss the correlation between girls with low self-esteem and guys who use this to their advantage,” I said, shoving out of the car and jacking my dress down. The more I pulled it down, the more of my boobs that came popping over the top.
“What’s your point, Debbie Downer?” Taylor said, weaving her elbow through mine.
“Don’t be a statistic,” I said, flashing an overdone smile at her.
“And let me discuss the ramifications between girls who don’t put out for their fine, rich boyfriends heading to college in Southern California in the fall,” she said, pulling me towards the house that rumbled with music.
“This ought to be good,” I muttered.
“They wind up dried up, bitter, old hags with a herd of cats and nothing but cobwebs between their legs.”
Hanging my head back, I groaned. “Add twisted to depraved and I think we’ve got Taylor Donovan pigeon holed.”
We weren’t even on the front lawn and already a cacophony of cat calls and whistles were fog-horning at us. “One hour,” I said, feeling generous, “and we’re out of here.”
“Three hours,” Taylor countered, giving some guy draped over the front stairs a smile that made me blush. “And don’t forget you’re my DD tonight, so no skipping out.”
I was all for playing chaperone and DD for my friends to make sure they made it through the night safe and in one piece, but I wished I had pawned Taylor off on someone else tonight because getting through three hours of everyone partying while I felt like the anti-party was going to mean bloodshed.
“It’s about time the party showed up,” Morrison shouted over the music at us, running his eyes down the two of us like he was using his hands.
“It’s officially started now,” Taylor replied, feeling like the belle of the ball from the looks we were getting. I suppose when you showed up to a party with inebriated guys rocking a scrap of fabric and a heap of makeup, oogling was par for the course.
“What’s your poison, ladies?” Morrison asked, weaving towards the bar area set up on Sawyer’s mom’s Italian buffet. She would bust something if she saw what was littered on it right now.
“Make it a screwdriver,” Taylor yelled over at him.
Morrison’s mouth curved up. “I believe I can accommodate that request.”
And I still had to put up with two hours and fifty nine minutes of this hedonism. Looked like someone was going to spend their time down on the hopefully vacant beach.
“Lucy?” Morrison called.
I was smart enough to know you didn’t take an open drink from a guy, most of all someone like Luke Morrison.
“I’m good,” I said, shooting him a thumbs up. Leaning into Taylor, I said, “Be good and call me if anyone tries something. I’m getting some fresh air.”
“Somebody better try something on me,” she replied, putting on a smile as Morrison made his way back to us with a drink in hand.
“Statistics,” I said, heading for the back door. “Don’t become one.”
“Don’t become a cobweb growing old hag!” she shouted after me.
Winding my way through the maze of students in the kitchen, I shoved a couple making out to the side so I could open the refrigerator. One can of pop was stuffed behind all the beer, and that’s what the designated driver snatched.
“Hot dress, Lucy!” someone yelled from somewhere in the kitchen. I didn’t validate it with a response.
“Sawyer’s looking for you. Something tells me he’s going to be a happy man when he finds you!”
I couldn’t get down to the beach fast enough. It was quiet and almost vacant save for a couple doing the nasty in Mrs. Diamond’s lounger. The night was warm and the water was so still it almost seemed like I could walk out on it without falling beneath the surface.
I slipped out of Taylor’s nude peep-toes and walked out to the end of the dock. I was going to have my own little party right here. Just me and Mr. Lemon Lime. I cracked open the can and took a sip. What the hell was wrong with me? When had the girl who used to love being the life of the party become the girl who found a quiet little corner to sulk?
Like most the questions I posed to myself these days, it always came down to the same answer. The same name.
“Not really my scene either.”
I jumped so hard I managed to spill a quarter of lemon lime soda all over Taylor’s very inappropriate dress. It would be the last time she’d lend me something from her wardrobe and that made me rather happy.
“Yeah, me neither,” I said, wiping the beads of pop off the champagne colored shiny material. “Obviously.”
“Nothing’s obvious about you, Lucy Larson.”
So those words, and that voice, very much got my attention now I wasn’t enraptured with pop removal. Even her voice was prettier than mine.
Looking over my shoulder, there was Holly, wearing a dark pair of skinny jeans and a white tee shirt, looking down at me. I didn’t know whether to offer her a seat or bail into the lake and swim for the opposite shore. I didn’t know what she knew, if she knew anything at all about me and Jude, and I sure as hell didn’t want to round robin our relationships with Jude together.
In the end, I decided to be civil. “Hey, Holly,” I said, “pull up a chair.”
She’d obviously sought me out, this wasn’t some happenstance meeting, so she had something she needed to say. I wanted to get this out of the way so I could continue to fail at trying to move on with my life.
She sat down, setting her red plastic cup to the side, and rolled up her jeans. “I thought I’d have a tough time getting you alone,” she said, dipping her feet in the water and scooting closer. “I hear you’ve become Southpointe’s ‘it’ girl this year.”
I didn’t want to think about who she’d heard that from.