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Love Me Never

Page 19

   


“Somebody peed.”
“I’d bet money it was you.”
“I wish! How awesome would it be to pee in that thing! Us girls don’t have the luxury of a portable piss-tube, okay? We can only pee on things we can squat on. A fountain is not one of said things.”
“With your pig-headed stubbornness, I’m sure you’d find a way.”
“Absolutely. I’m gonna try it right now –”
I stand a little too fast, wobbling on my feet. Jack grabs my wrist, pulling me back to the safety of the bench, but when I collapse backwards on it I sit slightly on his knee. I squeal and reposition quickly.
“Phew! That was almost a disaster. Dis-ASSter. Get it? I’m so good.”
“You’re so drunk,” He insists.
“You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”
The fountain burbles, and somewhere a cricket starts up his high-pitched engine legs.
“I wanted to thank you.” I squint hard at Jack’s face.
“For putting you in your place, you little hellion?”
“I don’t even know what hellion means. Where do you get all these words? You’re like that one nerdy dude they put on Jeopardy all the time. Minus the neckbeard. And the English degree.”
“It’s like, a crazy girl. An insane sort of…tornado type of person. Someone who just tears through people like paper in his or her madness.”
“Oh. Yup. Cool that they made an entire word just to describe me.”
“It’s Shakespearian.”
“He had a vision. Of me. A million years in the future. And that caused him to make up that word. Little known fact.”
Somewhere someone breaks something made of glass and yells ‘oh shit’. I see Kayla rush upstairs through the windows with a broom and dustpan.
“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted –” I start again. “I wanted to thank you.”
“For what, exactly? I thought you hate me.”
“Oh, I do! But I still owe you a thanks. You…it’s hard to explain, but I never thought, um. I never thought. It’s, when you’re someone like me, you don’t think it’ll ever happen to you. I just sort of gave up on it, you know? I was happy with never getting one, because people like me don’t get them, or deserve them, really. We’re not the sort of people those things happen to.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” He narrows his eyes.
“I just!” I shout, then whisper. “I just wanted to say. Um. Thank you. For. Um. Kissing me.”
He arches a brow. “That was a joke kiss. You were annoying me with the rumors, I had to put a stop to them somehow. It wasn’t serious.”
“Oh, I know! I think we, uh previously discussed that actually. No, I mean, I know. It was, haha, definitely a joke! Just. Thank you anyway.”
Jack goes very still, and then looks at me like he’s seeing me in a new light all of a sudden.
“Do you mean – you’ve never – that was your first kiss?”
“Haha. I mean, it’ll be my last, too, since, you know, people like me don’t get kissed, except when it’s a joke of course. Haha. But it was, uh, an experience. And. And I’m happy it happened to me, since I never thought someone would ever want to do something like that with me. So. Um. Yeah. Thank you. I mean it.”
“You’ve never - ”
“No! But that’s not really weird for someone like me, I mean, look at me!” I gesture to my clothes and face. “I’m not uh, you know, Kayla. I’m not even close. And plus I have too many huge dumb issues. I’m never gonna trust anybody to do those things with. But still. It was nice. And cool. And a joke, duh, but things can still be nice even if they were jokes, I think. Haha.”
Jack’s blue eyes are shocked, or maybe I’m just really drunk.
“But you’re so –” He starts.
“Loud? Annoying? Bitter? Smartmouthed? Yeah, I know. Guys have called me that before.”
“I was going to say,” Jack says sharply. “Confident. Charismatic. And cheerful. You’re like – it just seems like a lot of guys would’ve gravitated to – I don’t know.”
“There you go again with the really gross flattery. I’m not a client, okay? So you don’t have to flatter me when you don’t mean it.”
“I mean it. I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
“Except when you’re working.”
“But I’m not working now. There is no girl I’m being paid to woo here, so what I’m saying is honest and true.”
“Well, apparently you haven’t quite flipped the correct switches from work back to your normal life, so. It’s okay. The compliments are nice, even if you don’t mean them.”
“I mean them, alright? Stop questioning my sincerity!”
“Stop saying lies,” I sigh. “I’m none of those nice things you just said. But it’s okay. I can pretend.”
He rubs his forehead. “God, you’re infuriating.”
“Ooh, that’s another good adjective to add to my list!”
“If I had known –” He runs his hand through his hair, but it flops back down to shade his eyes. “If I had known I wouldn’t have done it. A first kiss…that’s something a girl should cherish. It’s something you should share with someone you really love. You shouldn’t lose it in a petty high school battle of wills to someone you hate.”
“Yeah, well. Never gonna love someone again, so. It’s okay. I’m glad I lost it, at least! It’s sort of nice to have gotten it over with.”
“You’re so sure of that, aren’t you?”
“Sure of what?” I blink.
“That you’re never going to love anyone again. You said it with such…conviction. Like it’s set in stone.”
“Oh! But it is!” I smile.
“So you won’t, in any one of the endless millions and trillions of possibilities that are your future selves, ever fall in love with someone again?”
“Yup! That’s right. It’s been three years, twelve weeks, and four days since I fell in love. And I’m never going to do it ever again. I learned my lesson.”
I get up and stretch to break the awkward quiet between us.
“I’m gonna get some more booze. You want any?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Oh ho! Is that so? You and Wren, both terrible goody-two shoes! Whodathunk it.”
“We used to be friends, in middle school,” Jack says softly. “Him and I.”
“And then what happened?”
Jack looks up at me, icy eyes glowing with an unholy fire in the faint light from the house. The shadows hug his face, making him look savagely handsome and savagely terrifying all at the same time.
“I did something very bad.”
His tone sends shivers down my spine, but I keep my face light and unaffected.
“Oh. Like, uh, put snow down his pants? Kissed his girlfriend? Or does it have something to do with Sophia?”
Jack laughs. He really laughs, this time, the sound clear like when he was with Madison. But nothing about it is pleasant, or amused. It’s bitter, old, full of guilt. Jack gets up and leaves, my curiosity roars through me and darts my hand out to grab his shirt and pull him back and make him explain, I trip on the lip of the fountain, and all at once there’s a horrible jolting down my spine, a heavy weight falling next to me, and water in my nose, my ears, my mouth. The cold shock whisks my booze-haze away and leaves me sputtering and struggling to get out of the fountain. Jack is likewise wet from his pants-down, and glowering at me. The entire party inside is mashed up against the windows, looking at us and laughing, and the garden crowd is practically rolling with laughter.