Sebastian and I have met tons of girls over the past few years, but neither of us has ever been down with the playing-them-thing. It’s not how I roll. "I really want to kiss you right now, but I gotta tell you, I’m just trying to have fun. I’m not looking for anything more.
The lips I just wanted to kiss turn downward and I know I’m losing her. "I’m not into random hook-ups."
I pull my hand away, strangely okay with it.
"Thanks for being honest, though. Most guys wouldn’t."
I give her my best smile and a wink. "I’m not most guys."
She laughs, giving me an "A" for my fake effort.
I pull off my hat and scratch my head, trying to figure out what to say. I shove it back on my head and keep going with the honesty thing. "I’m gonna go, okay? I’ll see you around, sometime." I’m not trying to be a jerk, but go figure. I am.
Samantha looks down at the ground. "See ya around."
"Thanks for the dance."
And just like that, she’s walking away. As I watch her, my eyes catch familiar black hair. It’s long, straight, and moving way too fast as Pris shoves her way toward the door.
My heart starts to jackhammer as I push my way toward her. She’s heading for the kitchen, then the backdoor.
"Pris!" There’s no way she can hear me over the music and the people. I still can’t stop myself from trying. "Pris, wait up!"
She’s out the door when I see Aspen and Sebastian run out behind her. I don’t even know where they came from. I can hardly breathe as I run through the doorway and into the backyard. I see Pris and Aspen off toward the back of the yard, in a corner by some trees and I head straight for them.
Pris’s eyes find mine and they’re red. I start to see red, too. "What did he do? Did that douchebag hurt you?"
My words seem to upset her more. "I can’t… I can’t do this with you, Jaden. Not with him here." And then she turns, burying her face in Aspen’s shoulder.
My stomach drops.
My hands tighten into fists even more fierce than the ones at my house early.
Sebastian throws a hand over my shoulder. "Come on, bro. I think they need girl time, or whatever."
My body is too tight. My muscles are frozen, making myself unable to move. "What happened?"
"I don’t know… From what I heard it sounds like they were in the room. He started to get a little too touchy-feely and she told him to slow down and he just dumped her or something."
"Bastian! Come here. I need your help." Aspen calls to him. His eyes flash toward her quickly and I take advantage, ripping out of his hold and running. I don’t take the time to see if he’s following me.
This time I’m shoving people out of my way. I don’t care who it is, I just have to find him. People are yelling at me and pushing me back, but I keep going, my eyes scanning the crowd, looking for Craig. Finally, finally I have a reason to hit him. It pisses me off that it took him hurting Pris for it to happen.
He turns around a corner right as I approach the hallway. Without giving myself time to think, I lunge, shoving Craig into the wall.
"What the hell, Sinclair!" Right about that time, people start to step in around us, all itching for the fight that’s about to go down. "I’d think you would be happy. Now that I dumped her, you’ll have a chance." And then the prick winks at me.
I swing my arm and connect my fist with his jaw. It feels good. There’s so much in my life I have no control over, but this? Protecting her? This is all mine.
Craig stumbles, tries to swing at me, but misses before I nail him again. My hand aches at the connection, but it doesn’t matter. As soon as I go for a third, someone grabs me from behind. I know its Sebastian without having to see him.
"Get the f**k off," I yell, but of course he doesn’t. Then someone else is grabbing onto me and they’re dragging me out of the house. A few people are around Craig, checking out his face as I fight to get back at him.
They toss me outside, whoever else helped him, heading back into the house and leaving only Sebastian and me on the porch.
"Fuck!" I don’t remember ever being this pissed before. "Why’d you do that? You should have helped me!"
"Helped you what? Get the cops called on us? Upset Pris even more? Damn, Jay. You think I don’t want to beat his ass just as bad as you do? "
"Ugh." I groan, reaching for my hat before realizing I must have lost it. I’m losing more than just that.
I wouldn’t take it back, though.
"If that had been Aspen, you wouldn’t have been pulling me off him." I turn and take the porch stairs two at a time. I’m on the street before I hear Sebastian’s footsteps behind me.
"Low blow, man."
He’s right, but I keep walking and he keeps following.
"Jay, I get it. Just chill out. Don’t take off. I’ll get the girls and we can bring them home and then head back to my place or something."
Yeah, like I can do that. She didn’t want me there earlier, so I doubt she does now. My heart is still thudding. My breaths still quick and fast.
"Seriously. What’s up with you, lately? You need to talk to me or whatever because right now you’re looking like you’re about to explode." He crosses his arms.
I don’t have time to answer because his cell phone goes off. I’m still walking away and he’s still following as he talks. A few seconds later, he says. "We gotta go back. The girls are waiting out front for us. Pris rode with Craig so she doesn’t have her car."
Finally, I stop walking. "Go get them."
Bastian looks back down the street, then at me, and down toward the house again. "Come with me."
He’s totally babysitting me right now and I don’t like it. "I can’t do this with you, Jaden. Not with him here."
"I can’t go back or I won’t be able to stop myself from looking for him," I say.
"Then wait. I’ll grab them and be right back."
I tell him okay even though I don’t plan to do it.
"Seriously, Jay. Don’t bail."
"Then hurry up," I say, trying to sound light. As soon as he starts jogging back for the girls, I take off in the other direction.
I don’t go home because:
1.) I hate the place. I never want to be there, but especially when I feel like this and
2.) I know Sebastian’s determined ass is probably sitting in his car outside waiting for me. I’m not in the mood to see him or anyone else, so I walk around all night.
Not my idea of a good time, especially since my hand is killing me, but I can’t think of anything else to do.
The sun is just starting to come up when I walk through the front door of my house. The second I step inside, I hear Dad’s heavy footsteps slamming against the hardwood floors. Great. He must have to work today. I turn to walk back out when he steps into the hallway.
"Are you just getting in, boy? Who do you think you are, coming into my house at this time of morning?"
His house, not mine, and I can’t help but wonder when he’s ever cared if I’m here or not. Or when I come in, for that matter. "Won’t happen again," I mumble because I’m not in the mood to deal with him.
Unfortunately, he seems to be in the mood to mess with me and by not playing his game, I probably just upped that need. When I try to walk around him, he grabs my arm. "So damn disrespectful. No matter what I do, you never learn any manners."
My brain files those words to the folder filled with everything else I’ve done wrong. "I said it won’t happen again. Why don’t you let me go?" I try to pull away, but he pulls me closer.
"Do I smell alcohol on you, little jerk?" His voice is harsh. Why does he hate me so much?
He doesn’t give me time to answer before he rips his hand off me. "You’re such a loser. You’ll never amount to anything. Mooching off me and your friends, staying out all night and coming home drunk."
I’m going to explode. Like I’m a can of soda that keeps getting shaken, dropped, kicked, and finally I can’t stop myself from exploding. After our last run-in, then Pris, walking around all night…I can’t handle any of it anymore and I need to fight back.
"Jesus! You’re like a broken record! Can’t you come up with anything new? I know I’m a loser, you hate me, I’ll never be anything. If you don’t have anything new to throw into the ring, I’d like to go to my room now." I manage to take a few steps away from him.
His oversized face turns red. I see his jaw tighten. I’ve never, ever spoken to him like that.
I want to do it again.
"You little punk." For the first time in my life, his hand raises toward me. I brace myself for the blow, sort of glad it finally came to this.
Mom steps around the corner. "Mike…Don’t, okay? Let’s just go to the room and calm down." Her voice is shaking and I wonder if this will be the one thing to finally make her stand up to him. To finally worry about me.
"Did you hear the way he spoke to me? Of course you did. You always take his side. He’s your little prize, isn’t he? From when you thought you’d found something better, but it turned out I’m the only one who would put up with you."
Mom flinches at his words, her hand going to her face. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but there’s no way I’ll let him speak to her that way.
"Leave her out of this. It’s between you and me." An angered heat burns through me, threatening to turn me to ash, but I stand my ground. "You have something to say to me? Say it."
He suddenly laughs. It’s a pissed-off laugh that makes my fists beg to hit him.
"Are you a big man now? About to graduate high school and you think you’re a man?"
He cuts her off. "Are you man enough to know your mom’s a slut? How she screwed another man and got stuck with you? That I’ve been raising her little bastard kid for eighteen years because your real daddy didn’t want you, either?"
I can’t breathe. Each of his words are a fist, slamming into me. A foot kicking me.
Mom starts crying, hiding her face in her hands.
Dad? No, Mike is smiling.
I can’t feel anything.
He’s not my dad?
"That’s right, kid. Your mom acted like a whore and then—"
His words are cut off when my fist rams into his face. I feel the bones crack, but I can’t stop myself. I swing at him again. This time, he’s ready for it. He knocks my hand away and shoves me into the wall. My hand slams against it. Pain shoots through my head, my knuckles, but it’s nothing compared to the way my heart has been cut open.
Mom jumps between us, screaming, before he can hit me again. Black makeup trails down her face with her tears. "Please, stop! Don’t fight."
Mike looks over her at me. He’s got a busted lip, but he smiles regardless.
"You’re done for, kid."
Mom tries to stop him as he pulls out his cell phone and dials. I don’t try to run. Probably couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I slide down to the floor.
He’s not even my dad.
And she still let him treat me this way.
The police ask me a million times what happened. Each time I admit to taking the first swing. What’s the point in fighting it? They bring me to the hospital first. My hand is broken. Obviously punching two people in one night didn’t agree with me.
Mom comes to the hospital, but I tell them I don’t want her in the room and since I’m eighteen, they can’t do anything about it. The police supervision is already enough of a downer.