Looking around, I remember the pool around back and head that way. We go around the corner and for once I get lucky because no one is there.
"Come on." I nod my head toward the pool and she follows me over.
I open the gate and she walks in. Priscilla heads over to the far corner and I follow her.
"It’s hot. We can go back to the room if you want to."
"I’m good if you’re good." Still no eye contact from her.
"I’m good, too. We can put our feet in." But then I remember her nails. "That might mess up your nails or whatever though. We could go back to the room," I say again. "We should have stayed in the room."
Pris slips out of her shoes, sits down, and puts her feet in the water.
"Come on, pretty boy. Don’t tell me you’re afraid of messing up your nails?" For the first time in forever, she sort of smiles at me. And yeah, it might sound stupid, but I missed it.
"Yeah, right. Sebastian’s the one you have to worry about for stuff like that." I step out of my Vans, pull off my socks and sit next to her. I roll my baggie shorts up so they’re above my knees and watch as Pris’s leg makes circles in the water.
After who knows how many circles, I get the balls to speak. "So…things have been kind of weird for a while."
Priscilla actually laughs. "Weird? Yeah, you can say that. I think it has to do with the fact that I was in love with you, thought you might feel the same, almost kissed you, got my heart broken, thought I got over you, only to get broken again when I found out you’re leaving."
Oh, damn. I start to choke. On what, I don’t know, but I’m coughing and trying to catch my breath like an idiot when I shouldn’t be surprised. This is Pris and she doesn’t hold back. But still, we’ve never talked about the almost-kiss at the beach house. She’s never said anything like this to me before and damn if it isn’t hot. Not that I should think that, but I do.
She starts to pound on my back. "Come on, pretty boy. Breathe. Let’s not pretend you didn’t know."
Once I’m able to stop acting like a psychopath, I look at her. Take in her slightly round face, plump lips, and for the first time in what feels like forever, I feel like she’s really looking at me too. "I thought you hated me now."
There’s a part of me who wants to be put out of my misery at my words. I thought you hated me now? How needy can I sound? But there’s another part of me who needs to know. Who might just be as needy as I sound. I’m not proud of that part. I actually want to lock it deep inside and forget it’s there, kind of like how my dad may have forgotten about me. Does he even know about me? Oh, that’s right. Mike said he didn’t want me.
Priscilla sighs. It’s crazy because she’s always so fierce. So strong that it makes me feel like crap that I may have dented her armor.
"I think I did…do…no. I did, a little bit. I’m not going to pretend I’m not angry or hurt. But I’m also tired of it too. Bastian’s right. It shouldn’t be like this. I don’t want to fight with you anymore, Jaden."
"We’re good at fighting." I wink at her.
"Oh, I know. I still think you’re in idiota, but I’m tired of being mad at you. I’m tired of being hurt."
"Shit," I groan, rubbing a hand over my face. "You’re the last person I want to hurt, Priscilla."
"I know that."
More circles with her feet. They look wobbly through the water. I can’t help myself from thinking about how strong she is. Her leg looks unstable under the water, like it’s made of Jell-o or something, but this is part of Priscilla which means it’s sturdy…unbreakable. How kick ass is this girl? She’s probably the strongest person I know.
"That doesn’t make it any less real though," she says. "I guess it wasn’t all your fault, either. You can’t help how you feel. Or don’t feel, for that matter."
I do feel it. I shouldn’t, but I do.
"No," I shake my head. "It’s my fault. After we almost kissed last summer I kind of… I don’t know, freaked or something. I know it was the alcohol or whatever, but I could have handled it better… Should have handled it better."
It had been so crazy, standing behind that house with her. I’d found a way to wipe her tears. Neither of us spoke and then we were just heading toward each other. Like f**king beacons or something, we were pulled together. I got so close. I smelled her breath and felt its heat on my lips and then it was over. I realized what was going on and I’d pulled back.
And of course, the next day we blamed it on drinking. And the rest of the trip we got along like we had in forever, but yeah. Things changed when we got home. I realized how I’d almost screwed up and the next thing I knew, I kept pulling farther and farther way.
"That doesn’t really matter, Jay. The fact is, I know when to let things go, and I have to. I’m moving on. I just want…"
For a minute I’m not sure if she drifted off or if I just stopped hearing. If somehow my hearing cut out when she said she’s moving on from me. I want to tell her that she can’t. She’s mine. In a way we’ve always belonged to each other. Since that hair pulling incident in kindergarten our lives have been so intertwined: Me, Priscilla, Bastian and Aspen, but now she’s moving on. And they’ve moved on. It’s like everyone is moving on—going toward something, and I keep slipping farther behind. "I don’t want to lose you," I blurt out.
"You’ll never lose us, Jay. What is it you guys always say? We’re a package deal or whatever? I just want to get back to what we were. I want to be cool, you know? I don’t want to have to yell at you for eating my chips or to ignore you."
For some reason, I fight to find my voice. It’s like it’s locked in that piece of me I wanted to hide earlier. Everything feels all wrong, but I can’t say why. Instead, when I open my mouth, the words, "They’re Cheetos. Not chips," fall out.
Priscilla shakes her head. "Stupido."
Does it make me a nutcase that I miss her calling me that? "Drama Queen."
She doesn’t reply so we sit there in silence, her feet dancing in the water. The sun is starting to go down now. Like a red, fireball being extinguished by the desert. Finally, I nudge her with my elbow. "So, a truce, huh?"
"Yeah. A truce." And then, "I’m going to miss you when you go to Texas. I really want the next few days to be perfect."
I turn to look at her; a piece of her dark hair is now flying in the slight breeze, moving around like her legs are in the water. And man do I want to kiss her and touch her. Memorize her with my hands. "I’m going to miss you, too."
I can’t make myself tell her even if the next few days aren’t perfect, this moment is.
"So, who are you staying with in Texas?"
"My uncle. He’s—"
"He helped you get the beater, right?"
"Yeah." I smile. Damn, I’m getting soft. I don’t even know why I’m smiling right now. "He owns a junkyard." I shake my head, because…well, that sort of sounds ghetto. I’m talking to this gorgeous, rich girl with a District Attorney for a dad and I’m talking about going to live at a junkyard?
I don’t know what makes me do it—maybe it’s to change the subject or maybe it’s because it’s something I would have done before, without a thought, or maybe I just want an excuse to touch her, but something makes me grab her. My arms slip around her before I push off the concrete and throw us both in the water.
Surprised, Pris goes easily when I pull us under. It’s only a second before she’s twisting and turning and just like she should be, she’s out of my grasp.
When I break the surface, I shake my head, water spraying all over the place. At first, her eyes are narrow and I know I’m in trouble, but then a wave of water flies and hits me in the face.
"That’s it. You’re going down, Mendoza." I push more water at her. We go back and forth, laughing the way we used to before everything got screwed up. It’s cool because she’s happy and she’s smiling, and damn it feels good to be the one to make her feel that way. I just want to keep it going.
Later, we’re still laughing as we stumble in the hotel room, soaking wet. Aspen and Bastian are laying on one of the beds.
"What the hell happened to you guys?" he asks.
Our clothes are obviously soaking wet and we’re dripping on the carpet. They have the AC on so it’s cold as hell, but neither of us cares.
I look at Pris and she’s looking at me and I know we’re thinking the same thing. Both of us fly at Bastian and Aspen. As they try and pull away, yelling, Pris and I soak them, and I start to feel like my family is back together again.
Early the next morning, I’m sitting in the car waiting for the other three to come down. My eyes are a little scratchy because I didn’t sleep too well. First of all, how was I supposed to actually sleep with Priscilla in the same bed? I mean, come on. I’m a guy and she’s a girl and she’s right there and my body definitely knows it. She made these little sounds through the night and, each of them hit me like little pinpricks in my body.
Then she’d roll over; her leg would kick out or her arm would come toward me. Yeah, totally not going to let you know how some of that stuff affected me.
Then when I’d finally fall asleep…she’d snore. It’s not as bad as Aspen made it sound and I know that’s not really supposed to be a big turn on or anything, but yeah, it was, okay. It’s cool she feels comfortable enough around me to sleep and not worry about it.
Still, I’m tired as hell today and glad we’re not going to be driving too long. We decided to keep with the original plan to stay in Salt Lake even though we’re a day late getting there. That will give us some more time to hang out and have some fun.
It wasn’t very easy for the others to explain to their parents why we didn’t go there last night, but it all worked out.
Bastian and I have already loaded the car with the stuff and he ran to see what is taking the girls so long.
I lean my head back, playing with the keys while I wait for them to get down here. A few minutes later, Bastian jumps in the back beside me. Aspen’s taking the first driving shift today.
"They’re on their way," he tells me. There are a few minutes of silence which when it comes to Bastian, I know it can’t be a good thing. When he speaks again, he confirms it. "So…about you and Pris."
I can’t help it, I start to laugh.
"What’s so funny?" he pouts like he’s famous for.
"You. Aren’t you the one who’s always saying not to ask about other girls?" He used to give me crap when I asked him about some girl he was hooking up with or whatever. Not that Priscilla and I are doing that, but still. I have to take my shots against him where I can.
"That’s different. This is one of our girls."
His words make my stomach hurt. They shouldn’t because she is just as much his girl as she is mine. They’re good friends just like we are, but it makes me feel like puking. "There’s nothing to tell, Gossip Girl. We talked. We’re cool and that’s that."
Luckily, I see the girls coming to save me from Sebastian and anymore questions I don’t want to answer. They head to the back of the Explorer and I get an idea. I elbow Bastian who looks at me funny, but waits to see what I’m going to do. We keep facing the front. Once they finish getting whatever they needed, I hear the rear door close, I hit the button to make it pop open. One of the girls grabs it and closes it again. The second it clicks, I hit the open button again.