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Picking at my muffin and waiting for coffee to brew, I scrolled through my colleagues’ Instagram posts from last night. Boyce was in several and Lord almighty, he looked good. I’d always thought he was hot, but lately my eyes loved everything about him—every single thing—as if I no longer saw him through the same lens.
Kaameh had posted a pic of us dancing: Boyce laughing down at me—one hand at my waist, fingers grazing the tie that kept my shirt wrapped tight, and me on my toes—smiling up at him, hair falling in waves down my back.
At one point last night, he’d leaned in close and asked, “So what happens if I pull this little string in back and spin you around?”
High on the delicious punch of his hot breath in my ear and the scrape of stubble grazing my cheek, I bit my lip to stifle an impending giggle. I was under the influence of both alcohol and Boyce Wynn—a dangerous combination. “You’ll find out what I’m not wearing under this shirt.”
His eyes burned like green fire, and I knew if we’d been alone I would’ve been spinning like a whirligig. “Mmm-hmm,” he said.
I stared at that picture, and a snapped undercurrent zinged straight to my core as if he were standing in my kitchen, his hands on me, urging me to come undone under the influence of his firm touch.
Me:  Thank you for taking care of me last night. I’m alive. Mostly.
Boyce:  You’re welcome. Feeling the effects today are ya?
Me:  GAH. My brain hasn’t stopped sobbing and asking if we’re gonna die. So glad I asked for today off work. I’d have been facedown on the keyboard all day. I rang in 21 good and hard.
Me:  Well that came out wrong. :-/
Boyce:  I’m biting back so many witty comments right now out of pity for your incapacity to retaliate…
Me:  Gee, thanks.
Boyce:  Any regrets?
Me:  No. No regrets.
Boyce:  Good.
No regrets.
Not a lie, applied to last night. Not the whole truth, applied to the length and breadth of the relationship Boyce and I shared. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. That night on the beach years ago—when I caught sight of that girl sprawled on Boyce’s lap—all I felt was quick, hard betrayal. And on the heels of that blow, I just felt stupid. I had never questioned whether I should have stood my ground. Whether I should have demanded to be more to him than just another hookup. Whether I was more.
Pearl Torres Frank always did the smart thing, and accepting the way things were instead of railing against that all-too-predictable conclusion and exposing my naïve heart for what it was seemed the smart thing. But leaving those words unsaid—I wanted to be your only—was also the cowardly thing. My one moment of regret in my twenty-one years.
Chapter Twenty-four
For the first time in a long time, I was trying to sort out a concern I couldn’t discuss with Pearl. After Sunday supper at Mateo and Yvette’s place, Yvette locked herself in their bathroom to take a bubble bath and read a book with a near-naked dude on the cover whose ripped chest and abs said, I got all this by spending most of my time at the gym. I don’t actually have time to run a billion-dollar corporation or screw anyone for longer than maybe fifteen minutes.
I’d noticed Pearl shoving that exact same book under her stack of sheets at the end of the sofa before the night of the storm.
“Your woman reads this stuff?” I asked, picking it up off the counter.
Yvette snatched it out of my hand and rolled her eyes. “Later, loser,” she said, and her sons fell all over each other giggling.
“Trust me, dude. Her reading that stuff is all good for me,” Vega said.
“Hmm,” I said, filing that away for later.
Vega and I kicked back on his porch with a six-pack of Coors and a pack of Camels while the boys played on the two-story fort we’d built in their backyard last summer, and I told him the details of Thomas Frank’s proposition.
“I’ve never heard anything bad about the guy,” he said. “But that garage should have been yours, Wynn. You’d be going from being the boss to being an employee.”
I took a drag, watching the boys take turns going headfirst down the slide. “Can’t do shit about that, man. Yeah, it sucks, but Amos says she’d have gotten half of everything fifteen years ago in a divorce—court-ordered—and maybe he’d have had to sell the garage back then to give it to her. I dunno, man. What’s done is done. I just don’t want to cut off my nose to spite my face, you know?”
“I hear ya.” He paused to take a sip and holler at Arturo for throwing rocks over the back fence into the neighbor’s yard. “What about the trailer—would you have to like…rent it?”
“Good point. No idea.”
One of the boys tore by us, the other one right behind him with a Super Soaker the size of my arm. “Oh shit,” Vega said about one second before his kid turned and sprayed him smack in the face, knocking the can right out of his hand. He jumped up, grabbed the hose and turned it on, then ran after the two of them, who shrieked like they were being chased by that dude from Saw.
Watching them, I remembered when we’d found out Yvette was knocked up. They’d been arguing over the fact that his chief activities after graduation were playing drums in a band that had little ambition and less talent, smoking weed, and playing Gears of War while stoned. Then one day she’d announced she was pregnant, breaking up with him, and moving to San Antonio to live with her older sister because her parents were super religious and freaking out and she couldn’t deal. We sat staring up at her from his parents’ sofa, mouths ajar and controllers forgotten in our hands.
“They’re making me tell you, so consider yourself told,” she’d said, hands fisted at her hips. “But you’re a child, and a child can’t raise a child. I’m done, Mateo.” Her voice shook. “I’m just done.” She walked out the door crying. He mobilized two minutes later and ran out the door after her—they’d lived two houses down from each other all their lives.
He quit the band and got a job the next weekend—manned up like no one I knew had ever done. When they found out she was having twins, I asked him why he hadn’t taken that free pass. He said, “Those babies and fatherhood scared the fuck out of me, but I kept thinking how scared she probably was too because she’s in it, you know? And I just want to be in it with her.”