"That doesn’t matter. That’s what’s expected. Everything is always for show and not because they give a shit. My graduation party? That wasn’t for me. It was for them. To look good. I was there for twenty minutes and no one noticed when I left. All I wanted was to be with you guys and they tried to take that away from me because of—"
Because of me. Her unspoken words hang in the air. Because I’m the one who isn’t good enough.
"Me. It’s okay. You can say it." I’m still touching her hair and her back because now that I’ve started, I’m not sure I can stop. "I’m used to it, Priscilla. If my own parents don’t give a shit about me, how can I expect yours to?" I immediately want the words back and not even because I regret telling her. Somehow, I’m glad I said it, but this is about her and I don’t want to bring my stuff into it.
Our breaths mingle together. I feel the heat from her body as she’s tucked against me from head to toe. Her hand squeezes tighter and even though it bites into my skin of my back, I want to feel it more.
"I told you, I don’t care what they think about you. They don’t know you."
I want to tell her I care. Not for me, but for her. I don’t want to be a strike against her. I don’t want to hold her back, but I can feel her and smell her and it’s all too much. I need more. Just like last summer, she pulls me, guides me, steers me like my beacon and I can’t stop myself dropping my mouth to hers.
I come down too hard and too fast and our teeth clank together. I feel like an idiot. I’ve kissed a ton of girls and never done that, and I immediately want to pull away, but she doesn’t let me. Priscilla’s hand slides through my hair and her lips move against mine and all I can think is more.
More of everything.
I search my brain for a switch to turn off my thoughts. I don’t want anything with me, but her right now as I slide my tongue into her mouth. I taste mint like she brushed her teeth and salt from her tears and still I think, more, more, more.
Her hand tugs at my hair and she makes this tiny little noise in her throat I don’t hear, but feel. Feel her lying next to me, kissing me as we lay on our sides in the bed.
I kiss her deeper, letting my tongue get intimate with every part of her mouth. And she does the same, tasting me and then letting me taste her.
All I can think is, this is kissing. This. Which is stupid because, like I said, I’ve kissed girls, lots of girls, but none of them came close to what this feels like.
Instinct takes over and I roll us, Priscilla on her back and I’m on top of her. She flinches a little when I settle in and I’m sure it’s because she realizes what I have going on under the belt.
I pull back, even though it’s the last thing I want, but then she whispers, "No," and leans up to find my lips again.
This time, it’s me who wants to burrow myself inside her. I kiss her lips, behind her ears, her throat. I lick her skin and touch her hair and she’s doing it all to me too.
My hand ghosts between us and touches the softness of her stomach. I explore and feel all those dips and valleys and curves that are Priscilla. And then when I know I’m going to explode if I don’t stop, I leave an inch between our lips when I say, "I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—"
"I’m not," she cuts me off.
"Okay, I’m really not, either." And I’m not and we both laugh and this time when I roll, I pull her so she’s half laying on me. One leg is flung over me and one arm is over my chest. She’s in the crook of my arm and I touch her hair, thinking how much I like it straight, but realizing I like it just as much when it’s curly.
After who knows how long passes, she says, "I just want them to love me for me… I just want to be good enough."
"You are good enough, Priscilla. If they can’t see that, it’s their fault.” But what I really want to tell her is that I’d love her for her. Hell, maybe I already do. I can’t though. I can’t give them another reason to treat her like she doesn’t measure up. Not when I know I don’t.
I think she starts to cry again, so I just hold her tight. Tight enough so she knows I’ll always be there. Hoping she can feel how much I care by the way my arms wrap around her. I think about the paper … the address and I think maybe, just maybe, I can tell her about that, too.
We sleep all night with the light on. I thought about getting up to turn it off, but I didn’t want to leave her and it didn’t seem to bother her so I stayed. She fell asleep before me and it took me forever to do the same, but finally I did.
Much too soon, I hear a bang on the door and know it’s Sebastian and Aspen to wake us up. I pull my phone out of my pocket and try to text him one handed to chill the hell out and that we’re awake, but Priscilla starts to stir and I know there’s no need.
"Shut up, Bastian!" she yells before easing away from me.
Her hair is all messy and she stretches, her shirt pulling up a little bit and I worry about showing her just how much I like the view, so I sit up.
"Hey," I say, which is completely stupid.
"How are you feeling?" I raise my hand to touch her hair, but stop myself. It’s all kinds of dumb and I need to remember that.
"Better. I don’t know why I freaked out last night. You’d think I’d be used to it by now."
"You shouldn’t have to get used to it."
I stand up, feeling like a loser and not sure what to do or what to say. Like always, Priscilla saves me, standing and putting her arms around me. I pull her into a hug, like we did with the towel in Utah, my chin resting on top of her head.
"Thank you…for last night and all."
"Any time, Priscilla. You know that."
She looks up at me funny. "I like it when you call me Priscilla."
I like it, too. Sometimes I wish I could say the things I think in my head. Or that she could read my mind because it would make things so much easier. "Okay." I pull away from her. "We should probably get ready before Sebastian has an aneurism."
"Only if you do me a favor."
She hugs me again, her cheek resting on my chest. "We only have a few more days, yeah? I know that. Just don’t think too much, okay? Let’s just…be. Whatever happens, happens, ya know? I’m a big girl."
I feel like such a p**sy that she ever has to say something like that to me. What is wrong with me? She’s right though. I’m not going to freak out. I’m not going to think about anything. The switch is still off, so for now I’m fine. Bending forward, I let my lips cover hers. Our tongues tangle for a minute before I make myself pull away. "Come on, Priscilla. Let’s get ready."
"I’m totally going to moon him." Sebastian turns in his seat.
I groan at the same time as Aspen says, "Bastian! Don’t."
"Yeah, Sebastian. Don’t, unless you want me to go blind and wreck your car."
Priscilla laughs from the passenger seat. We’ve been having contest on who can get truckers to honk or people in other cars to laugh. Yeah, it makes us sound like we’re five, but who cares? It’s fun and it’s a long, boring drive through the rest of Nebraska and Iowa.
"I’m winning here and you guys don’t think I’m not going to bring out the big guns to seal the deal?" Sebastian says, still moving in the backseat.
"True. I’m sure your ass looks funny as hell," Pris adds. "I’m sure it would make me laugh my butt off."
"Hell yeah. That’s my girl," I say and then I realize what just came out of my mouth. I totally just called her my girl in front of everyone. Yeah, we made out last night. Kissed a little this morning, but we’ve been normal ever since. All I need is for Sebastian to get some stupid idea in his head and start blabbing his mouth like he does.
The whole car is quiet for a few seconds. I use driving as an excuse not to look in the back at Bastian and Aspen, but I can’t stop my eyes from darting over to Priscilla. She shrugs like it’s nothing and gives me a small smile before she says, "Didn’t we make a no nudity rule at the beginning of this? If not, we should have. I don’t want to see Sebastian’s white butt."
"Hey! I have a nice ass! Don’t I, baby?" Sebastian whines. Aspen rolls her eyes.
"Dude, you’re the only guy I know who would say that."
"That’s because I don’t care what people think."
"Word." I say because he doesn’t, and I don’t either. Do I? I’m not sure. I never thought I was the type to give a shit, but I’m doubting that right now. I don’t know what it is about him saying that right now that struck me, but it did.
I totally care what people think. That pisses me off.
"Why do you look all tense over there?" Priscilla pats my leg.
How does she do that? It’s crazy how she can read me. I wonder if that’s a girl thing or a her thing. "I’m cool." Really, I’m not. I’m suddenly in the mood to prove I don’t give a shit what other people think about me.
A little while later, we stop for gas. Sebastian fills the Explorer while the girls head to the bathroom. After I buy Priscilla and me some candy and soda, I head around to the side of the building. It’s stupid that I decide to call her right now, but for some reason, I need to.
I set the bag on the ground and call home. Three rings later I know I’ve made a mistake.
"If it isn’t the bastard. What do you want from us now?" Mikes voice seethes through the phone.
I almost hang up. It’s obvious he wants to talk shit to me or he wouldn’t have answered the phone, but…I don’t know. I want to try to prove him wrong. Show him I don’t need them. That I never did.
And I also just want to talk to my mom. I hate that side of me—that I can still need her when I’ve never been a priority in her life. Three parents, and I couldn’t score one who gives a shit. What does that say?
"You? I don’t need shit from you. I want to talk to my mom."
He’s quiet for a second and I wonder if he’s surprised. If he actually thought I would be crawling back to them. I’m sure he missed his verbal punching bag, but then he opens his mouth and says, "I guess it’s too bad she doesn’t want to talk to you. You might think it’s just me, you little shit, but it’s not. Did you ever think she was counting down the days until she could get rid of you? That she regretted everything about you? It’s not like you ever gave her anything to be proud of. What have you done, boy? What have you ever done that matters besides making our lives hell?"
My drink drops out of my hand, but I manage to hold on to Priscilla’s. I don’t know why those words hit me so hard—why they happen to scream above all the other insults imprinted into my brain. Was she really anxious for me to go? Did I ruin her life?
Do I really not matter?
"Mike! I’m ready!" I hear Mom in the background.
Ask him who he’s talking to. Ask if it’s me. Say you want to talk to me.
"Finally getting it aren’t you, boy?" Mike says, and then he hangs up.
My hand begs me to squeeze, to crush the phone.
I don’t matter. I don’t matter. I don’t matter.
God, I feel like such a p**sy. I can’t breathe. My chest feels tight and the emotion makes me angrier. The urge to yell crawls up my throat. I want to hit something—the wall, the ground, anything. I want some other kind of pain so I don’t feel the one inside.
I fall back against the wall, his words still slamming into me.
"Jay? You over here?" Priscilla walks around the corner and my lips automatically stretch into a smile. Not a real one.