I stand back up next to James. “You need to take her in the back door…”
“I got it.” Then to Alyssa, “Watch my upholstery.”
“Love you, James.” Give me something to hold onto here.
“Yeah. Love you, too.” He slides in the driver’s seat, closes the door, and drives away. I’ve barely seen him all week, and he’s gone. Just like that.
I don’t move. I watch him drive off, wishing for something between us that just isn’t there. Some crazy spark, something, anything…
But that’s not really what we’re about. We’re comfortable. It’s nice to be comfortable. But if it’s so nice, why does my chest feel heavy? Now I just want to go to Mom’s restaurant and stuff my face. But first I need to dig through her car and see if I can find a shirt that isn’t soaked in beer.
Hangovers suck. My head is going to explode, my gut aches like I’ve spent too much time in the car with Paul after he eats Taco Bell, and my mouth feels like there’s glue in it. The part that really sucks is it’s my fault. I forgot my own rules. I didn’t follow the happy-buzz plan, drinking way more than I should have once Hanes left. I mean, who gets that pissed over a white T-shirt? Maybe she has stock in the company. The girl has some serious damage, which gives me something else to add to my suckage list. I’m in bed, feeling like a truck ran over me, yet my mind is on her.
What. The. Hell?
What did I ever do to her? What kind of person comes to a party with an Oscar the Grouch frown, insults the owner of said party and then eyes him up and down like he’s something to eat? Yeah, she had her eyes on me. I noticed. What I wish is that I’d been able to take my eyes off her. And it kind of kills me I had that effect on her. The I-couldn’t-care-less effect, not the devour-me-with-your-eyes one.
It shouldn’t matter because I don’t go for girls like her. I’m not into the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing because that leads to the kind of commitment that screwed up my whole family.
Chastity’s into me, and she doesn’t want more than just to have fun either. I should totally be focusing on her right now. On the way her skin felt beneath my hands, the way her mouth took mine. Granted, with a little too much spit, but still. Chastity is safe for a whole gang of reasons that I’m too foggy-brained to think about right now.
So I don’t. Instead I drag my lazy ass out of bed to get the house clean before Dad gets home. Then it’s shopping. Can’t have enough school clothes. Especially when I go to the hellhole known as Portland Prep—yes, that’s really the name. It doesn’t even matter that we have a school uniform; It’s always a good time for a new wardrobe.
“Dylan. Psst,” Chastity calls from the next row over and a seat behind me. Mrs. Palm is at the front of the room talking about who the hell knows what. How history can be so interesting I don’t understand, but she loses herself in the Ho Chi Minh Trail, rambling on and on, oblivious to what’s happening in the classroom.
I turn to her. “Yeah?”
School Chastity looks so different than party Chastity. There’s a makeup rule on how much you can wear, and party Chastity would definitely end up spending some time in detention if she showed up here.
“Do you have plans after school? Wanna chill?” she whisper-yells.
It’s December, and Chastity and I have “hung out” a few times since the party. It’s easy with her. We have fun and then go our separate ways, something that works well for both of us. I hear she’s seen Ted Thompson once or twice, too. They’re one of those hook-up and break-up couples. For all I know she’s using me to make him jealous, but I don’t care. It’s not hard to avoid caring about Chastity. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk. There’s nothing wrong with her. I just don’t give people ways to have any power over me. It’s another one of those Gibson Boys things.
“Yeah. You can come to my house—”
“Mr. Gibson! Is there something you’d like to share with the class?”
Yeah, leave it to me to get caught talking by the teacher who never catches anyone. “No, ma’am. I was just taking notes on your discussion, but I missed that last part. I asked Chastity if she caught it.”
I smile and hold up a piece of paper I just started a sketch on. Sketching is way more interesting than history, and I’m better at it, too. I’m always drawing something and tucking it away. I guess you can say it’s my thing. Luckily, another well-known fact about Mrs. Palm, she’s blind as a bat and won’t notice I’m drawing a picture of her rather than taking notes.
“Oh, wonderful! Good for you, Dylan. I’m glad you’re enjoying the discussion.”
Easy as that.
“I guess that means you’ll get the best grade on the class on our next test.”
Shit. Maybe not.
Thankfully the bell rings and I throw my stuff in my bag. It’s last class of the day, which means freedom. I wait for Chastity, and we walk out to my Hummer together.
“God, I love your car.” She climbs in the passenger side, and I jump in the driver’s seat.
I rev the engine and pull out. The other cars stay out of my way, because, well, I could run them over if I wanted to.
“I’m supposed to do dinner with Becky and her family tonight,” Chastity says. “Is it okay if she picks me up at your house around five?”
“Yep. Sounds good to me.”
My cell beeps, and I pick it up to see a missed call from Derrick. It’s been a few weeks since we talked, which is strange, but I don’t feel like talking to him in front of an audience. I’ll call him later.
We make it through the Portland streets pretty quickly. Before I know it, we’re in my kitchen. “You want a soda or something—” Chastity’s lips cut me off.
Guess not. Not that I’m complaining, but I wouldn’t have minded a drink and maybe some chips or something first. Then I take over, letting my tongue swirl around in her mouth. She makes this little sighing sound and then slides her hand under the back of my shirt. My stomach growls, and I find myself wishing I’d gotten my snack. Sounds insane, I know. Maybe I’m going insane. What guy would rather eat Doritos than make out with Chastity?
Trying to shake those thoughts from my head, I lean her against the counter and let my mouth slide away from her lips and down her neck.
She. Tastes. Like. Makeup.
Not nearly as good as chips.
And she’s not even wearing as much as party Chastity would. How do I keep doing this? How did I do it so much at the party a few months back? Thinking of the party makes Hanes pop into my head. The girl with the plump lips who looked at me like she either wanted to kiss me or stab me. I’m not even sure she knew which one.
My thoughts switch from her evil eye to her wet shirt. I still can’t believe she wore a T-shirt and faded jeans to my party. I mean, props to her because I don’t know any girl at my school who’d have the confidence to do it, but I’m still shocked. Maybe that’s why I’m shocked. Because the girls I hang out with would not be caught dead in what she wore.
And I still can’t get her out of my head. T-shirt or not, this girl is somehow imprinted on my memory. I’m thinking it’s the whole fact that she didn’t give me the time of day. There’s nothing else it could be.
Aaaand, back to reality. What kind of bastard am I? I’m making out with one girl and thinking of another one. My body wills me to ignore it, to keep going because… hormones, hello? But instead, I pull away. I rub the back of my neck.
“Um, you wanna watch a movie or something?”
Chastity cocks her head at me like she’s confused. Then her eyes light up like she’s just been let in on a joke I didn’t know I was telling. “Sure.”
I grab two sodas and some chips and then lead her downstairs to the media room. We toss in a comedy, and I start in on my snack and drink, feeling pretty proud of myself for putting the brakes on things.
Thirty minutes later the food and drink in my hand are replaced with Chastity. Dude, I tried. I swear I tried, but she keeps getting closer and closer, kissing my neck. A man’s only so strong, but I’m still kind of not into it. I keep catching little scenes on the movie, wondering why Derrick called, trying to figure out where the Ho Chi Minh Trail even is. All things that should not be going on in a guy’s head when he’s making out with a girl.
“Dylan? You down there?”
Chastity jumps to the other side of the couch at the sound of Dad’s voice. Yeah, like he doesn’t know what we’re doing down here.
Dad steps into the room wearing the same suit he wore in court today. He’s a huge defense attorney in Portland. “Oh… hello.” He looks awkwardly at Chastity. “I need to talk to you about your brother, but it can wait.”
This piques my interest. Dad’s never started a sentence with “I need to talk to you about your brother.”
Chastity jumps to her feet. “No! I’m leaving. My friend will be here any minute. Thanks for letting me watch a movie with Dylan, Mr. Gibson.”
I laugh. Dad didn’t let her do anything. He wouldn’t have had a clue she’d even been here if he didn’t need me for something.
“I’ll walk you out.” Then to Dad I say, “Should I just call Derrick? He called me earlier, but I missed it.”
A very noticeable breath deflates Dad’s chest. It makes my heart start to beat a little faster. Something’s wrong. Something Dad doesn’t want to tell me. Just that quickly my stomach churns. The last time Dad told me something he didn’t want to, all our lives changed forever.
“Yeah, yeah. Call your brother. I’ll be upstairs in my office if you need to talk.”
Need to talk? Why would I need to talk?
I rush Chastity to the main floor and outside. Becky pulls up at the perfect time. As she tells me goodbye, I’m already dialing Derrick’s phone number. I’m pacing across one of the only other things Dad’s anal about—his lawn.
“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” I mumble, all sorts of thoughts pounding in my brain. Derrick’s sick. He’s leaving the country. Something’s wrong with Dad that he can’t tell me.
“Hey, baby brother!”
I let out a breath. He sounds happy. If he sounds happy, nothing can be wrong, right?
“What’s up? Dad was all pale and shit when he said I needed to call you.”
Derrick laughs. “Nothing’s wrong, Lil D. I have good news!”
Lil D. I hate that name. Just because he’s older, he gets to be Big D. Whatever.
“So spill it.” My voice cracks. I’m still nervous. Why am I still nervous?
Through the phone, I hear Derrick take a few breaths. He’s nervous, too. “Dyl, I’m getting married!”
MARRIED? What? It’s worse than I thought. My brother isn’t dying; he’s gone bat-shit crazy.
“Listen, Dylan, I know… Mom and all, but…”