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Love Me Never

Page 24

   


What I really wanna do is take what I earned from my summers of part-time jobbing and go to Europe, eat the food, see the people, bike around the countryside. It’d be incredible. And incredibly terrifying to be on my own like that. But I’d manage. Struggling through young adulthood is half the fun, or so I’ve been told.
Except we all know that’s bullshit. It wasn’t fun at all.
It was painful, and now I just wanna go somewhere no one knows me, start the next chapter of my life fresh. But I can’t. I have Mom. And I love her more than I love my freedom. I have to protect her, and help her get better.
So I’ll do the college thing Dad and Mom expect of me. I’ll get a degree in Poopology or something. I’ll be the daughter they want me to be until I figure out the person I want to be.
The Grand 9 bowling alley in downtown Columbus is awesome – a massive neon sign greeting me with the number 9 and a dancing electronic bear of some kind draped over it. It’s cheap and looks like it’ll be greasy as hell, and I’m already loving it. I park and go in, and I’m instantly greeted by that particular bowling-alley smell – wax and sweaty shoes and soggy French fries. An overweight man jerks his thumb to the last lane and hands me a pair of size 7 shoes.
“Oh. Thank you? How did you know my size?”
“Pretty boy told me.” The man grunts. Pretty boy? I walk over to the last lane, the counter riddled with soda cups, a pitcher of root beer, and empty nacho wrappers. Wren is bowling at the lane, arcing a perfect split. Kayla smiles and high-fives him as he comes off the lane. Avery is grumpily sipping her root beer, and to my surprise and general disgust, Jack Hunter is sitting at the lane, looking even more insufferably cool, if that’s at all humanly possible.
“I see everyone’s here!” I cheerily bounce into a seat next to him and unlace my shoes. I glance over, as if seeing him for the first time. “Alright, which one of you’s been dabbling in demon summoning and hasn’t told me about it?”
Avery rolls her eyes and takes out a flask of, presumably, alcohol, and dumps it into her soda.
“Nice to see you in something other than prostitute clothes,” Jack says.
“You’d know all about prostitute clothes, wouldn’t you?” I smile, and choose a bright pink ball before sitting down again. “Who –”
“I’m here because Kayla asked me,” He interrupts. “And I guessed your shoe size.”
“Accurate guess.”
“Your measurements are 38-28-36, and you’re 5’5. It’s not hard to guess a shoe size based on that.”
“And you know my measurements!” I clap my hands excitedly. “However did you guess those? Wait, let me think – you were staring at me!”
“I have a gift,” He says dryly. “For observation.”
“And for being extremely creepy.”
“Your prostitute outfit the other day was the first time you wore tight enough clothes for me to estimate correctly.”
“I would love to slap you right now, but I’m currently wielding a nine pound ball and I’m afraid that would be called murder.”
He half-laughs, half-scoffs, and gets up to pour himself a soda. I turn to Avery.
“So? Who’s winning?”
“Can’t you read numbers?” Avery sighs, and motions to the board. Jack is ahead of everyone by a good fifty points and they’re only in the fifth round, his card decorated with straight strikes.
“Look at all those X’s! It’s like a strip club sign! You’d almost think they had some kind of hidden meaning,” I muse aloud. Very loudly.
“The meaning that I’m winning?” Jack raises a brow.
“Or that you’re a stripper at a g*y bar,” I announce.
“I’ve only stripped once, and it was for a woman, thank you very much,” Jack hisses.
“Yeah? Do tell.” Avery suddenly looks very interested. Jack makes a disgusted noise and stands to bowl his turn. Kayla bounces over to me.
“Aw, Kayla, look at you! Eager as a puppy and pretty as a picture. Not of a puppy. Because pictures of puppies sometimes look kind of slimy and you are not slimy and oh my god Wren are you wearing contacts?”
Wren coughs, and adjusts his shirt collar, eyes busy boring a nervous hole into the back of Jack’s head.
“Y-Yes? I just came from volunteering at the Salvation Army, so I didn’t have time to take them out. It’s good to see you. We thought you weren’t coming.”
“Oh I always come. Especially where I’m not wanted!”
Kayla frowns. “That’s not true. Um. Avery, um, you wanted her here, right?”
Behind Kayla’s back, I make a crazy cuckoo spiral around my head with my finger. Avery narrows her eyes, then smiles like a fox with its tail caught in a chicken coop door.
“Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Did you get the French club proposal, Wren?”
“Yes, I did. I’ve already looked over it. It’s nice you took me out to bowling and all, but I’m afraid I just can’t pass it. That much money for only the French club is pretty ludicrous.”
“Ludicrous? C’mon, sweetie,” Avery coos, running her finger up his chest. “You know I’ll put it to good use.”
Wren gulps. “Ah, still. No. I’m sorry, but I can’t sign off on it. You could start four new clubs with that much funding.”
“But they aren’t being started!” Avery snarls. “The money’s just sitting there! Why not give it to me?”
Jack bowls a spare. And has perfect form. He strides off the lane looking immensely smug and I slip a leftover cheesy nacho onto his chair the second before he sits down. He smirks at me, and I smirk back.
“Good work,” I say.
“You don’t need to tell me that. I always do well.”
I make a gagging motion to Kayla, who giggles and sits beside him.
“So, Jack! Are you good at other sports? Like, baseball? Or basketball?” She asks, doe-eyes wide.
“I played basketball in middle school.”
“Oh! That’s really cool!”
“I hated it.”
“Oh,” Kayla whispers.
I bowl my turn – a strike. To catch up, Avery bypasses everyone else’s turn on the computer and I bowl a few more times. Strike. Strike. Strike. Strike. Wren cheers, and with every strike I hear Jack getting more and more irritated as he answers Kayla’s innocent questions. Finally, when I turn around and sit for good, I notice Kayla’s gone, the sound of wailing coming from inside the nearby girl’s restroom. Avery looks impressed, as much as a china doll can form emotions like impressed, and Jack’s white-knuckled fists are on his knees. Wren high-fives me.
“You were awesome!”
“Thanks!”
“I’ve never…seriously, I’ve never seen anything like that! You have to teach me your secret.”
First of all, don’t be such a huge dork.
“Uh –”
Second, why is Kayla even hitting on Jack? Wren is way, way cuter and way nicer.
“Um, Isis – ” Wren clears his throat, flushing red.
I blink. “Hm? Did I say that outloud? Gotta get a handle on that!”
Wren laughs, and Avery snorts. Jack stands abruptly and pushes past me, grabbing his bowling ball and striding down the lane with newfound verve.