Someone to love, p.14

Someone to Love, page 14


Someone to Love

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  “Then”—Ally twitches—“I scald him and make sure his future endeavors in procreation are physiologically futile. We burn the bastard.”

  Knew it.

  “I don’t even know what he looks like.” Shit. I’m nowhere near ready to pick up strays at coffee holes. By definition, Cruise is doing a lousy job of directing me in all things “hookup.”

  “He’s bald and looks like every single stranger your mother ever warned you about.” Lauren says, pedaling me to the back of the store. “Just picture him asking you to look for his lost kitten while luring you into a windowless van.”

  A small cry escapes my throat. “God, Lauren, you are so going to owe me for this.”

  “Done,” she says, ducking behind some foliage.

  I take a seat at an empty table and wait for a tall, bald predator to walk through those doors and see if I qualify to be his sex kitten.


  The smell of rust and hairspray, fumes me out from underneath the bathroom sink.

  I look up at my sister who’s wielding a can of toxic hair glue like it was a lethal weapon.

  “You mind?” I bury my face in my armpit and take a deep breath. I’d rather inhale the remnants of my deodorant than asphyxiate myself with the vaporous shit Molly insists on suffocating me with. “I’m going to die of lung cancer one day, and it’s going to be all your fault,” I say, tossing my wrench back in the tool bag.

  “Sorry, but I have to look perfect.” She twirls the curling iron in her hair, and a series of vapors emit from the wand. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to smoke like that. I’ve held down the fort more than a few times, at the Crappy Hair and Snail Salon where the new logo should be; We’ll age you thirty years! Not sure why Kenny never lawyered up. My mother is damn lucky she still has a roof over her head—me too for that matter.

  “What do you need to look so perfect for?” I say, getting up and dusting the rust off my jeans.

  “I got a date.”

  “A what?” I look at her in the mirror. Her face is painted like a kabuki doll, complete with bright red lipstick, and her hair is twirled in perfect ringlets like she’s going to prom. “You can’t go on a date.”

  “Says who?” Her bright pink nails maneuver the curling iron around another stray lock.

  “Says me.”

  “You’re not my dad.”

  “You don’t have one, so I sort of am.” I bend over to pick up my tool bag, and she knees me solid in the balls. “Shit.” My head dips to my thighs as a blinding pain spreads through my body, slow and searing like molasses on fire. “Moll,” I say, following her agitated footsteps down the halls. “I’m sorry.” I pound against the door. “Can I come in?”

  “No. I hate you!” The soft sound of sobbing emits from the other side.

  “I’m sorry.” I wiggle the doorknob until it unlocks itself. Nothing ever works around here, so it’s no big surprise I can manipulate the bolt with a flick of the wrist.

  Molly lies on the bed, crumpled and broken. She depresses her face in the pillow as her back heaves in a wild fit of tears.

  “Hey.” I go over and sit on the edge, rubbing her shoulders with my deep regret. “I just don’t want to see you getting hurt, kiddo. That’s all.” Shit. Could I damage her any more than I already have? It’s not her fault her dad is a screw up. He landed in the pen five years ago on a cocaine bust that ended with a body, and now here I am, rubbing her face in it. “You really like this guy?”

  She twists around and looks at me with those tear-filled eyes. Her lipstick’s smeared, and her neat curls have exchanged themselves for a ball of frizz. She might very well be transforming into a beautiful young woman but all I see is that six-year-old who used to follow me around like a puppy—wish it was still so.

  “Yes, I like him.” She straightens her legs, and I’m shocked to see they almost dangle off the bed.

  “Does he treat you well?”

  “No.” She doesn’t hesitate to answer.

  “Then what the hell are you doing with him?”

  “I don’t know. I just want him to like me. I want him to tell me he cares about me—that he loves me, but he never does. He just slobbers all over me and pretends like that’s enough. At least buy me a freaking flower before you stick your tongue down my throat.”

  “You know I’m going to have to kill him.”

  Her eyes slit to nothing. “Touch him and I’ll arrange the need for a brand new set of tires and repeat the effort.”

  My stomach sours at the thought of anyone hurting Molly—cheating on her. All she wants is a few kind sentiments and flowers and gets neither.

  She might as well be talking about Kenny and me.

  “Look, I gotta run.” I lean over and tousle her hair. “Do me a favor and give this guy the cold shoulder, will you? Stay in and catch a movie with Mom. She could use the company. And don’t let anyone stick their tongue down your throat, or I’ll have to track them down and rearrange body parts.”

  “Where you going?”

  “I’ve got some shopping to do.”

  Flowers. I give a little laugh as I stare down at the bouquet of bright red roses I picked up from the florist. I wanted it to look special, not like I swiped it out of a plastic bucket off a street corner, so the florist peppered in a bunch of baby’s breath, and it looks like a song came to life right here in my hand.

  I tried to text Kenny to see where she’s at, but she didn’t answer. I figured I’d hit a few of the usual haunts before waiting it out at home. I’m amped and ready to tell her how I feel—that she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid on eyes on, that her inner beauty outshines the stars, the moon—makes them look like amateur hour when it comes to phosphorescence. Then I’m going to say it. I’m going to say those three little words I haven’t uttered in so long—and for the first time ever, I’m finally going to mean them.

  The Beamer is parked right outside Starbucks, amassing snow an inch deep over the windshield, so she must have been here a good long while.

  I park and brace myself before getting out of the car—hell before imparting such a life changing statement. Everything about the two of us will change in that very moment. She’ll either say it right back or laugh in my face.

  A flurry of snow greets me as I make my way inside. The flowers feel foreign in my hand, like I’ve donned a costume and this is just some prop. It doesn’t feel real. My heart drums out a vicious beat as I pan the establishment. I spot Ally behind the counter, and her jaw drops. I tick a quick hello before scouring the crowd and spot Kenny off in the back.

  My stomach bottoms out.

  Kenny has her arms wrapped around the waist of a familiar looking bald-headed bastard—Cal.

  She belts out a laugh and her neck arches with pleasure in a way I only thought it did for me.

  Looks like Kenny is taking the game to a whole new level—flying solo with Cal of all people. And here I didn’t think she had it in her, that she secretly may have wanted only me.

  A little girl walks in with her mother. Her long hair, those large brown eyes with the slight look of hurt in them remind me an awful lot of Molly.

  “These are for you.” I hand her the flowers and dart back to the truck.

  She didn’t come to my room last night.

  I glance out the window bleary-eyed as the sun crests the hillside, casting an eerie tangerine glow over the mounds of snow that piled overnight. I lie back down and throw my arm over my eyes, trying to block out the dismal light, the world—reality in general. Kenny seemed so innocent when I saw her that night at that party. I knew she wasn’t coming home with me to heat the sheets, but she held the oxygen in the room, and I damn well needed to breathe. I was floating on the wreckage from my last heartbreak and Kenny was a beautiful island that emerged from nowhere, one that I longed to explore. And now I’m petrified that what I really came upon was a volcano ready to blow my world to pieces. If I thought Blair was bad, her blatant F.U. after years of being
together, then I have a feeling Kenny is going obliterate me in the worst way possible.

  I didn’t think I could feel pain so deep from someone I’ve hardly known a month. I never knew I could have my heart ripped from my chest and set on fire by my sheer desire to have someone who has no real interest in me.

  This afternoon I’ll be wearing nothing but a smile in Kendall Jordan’s art class. I know for sure she’s enrolled in it because I double-checked her schedule last night.

  I’ll have to put on that invisible suit of armor I’ve donned since last summer when everything went to shit just hoping to make it through the hour.

  I could always not go—forfeit two hundred big ones. Technically, I’m staff, so I shouldn’t be so eager to shed the stitches, although Professor Webber made it a point to let me know graduate students were her primary pool of applicants. Besides, I should probably get back in the game—start tearing through that industrial-sized box of condoms I’ve got stashed in my nightstand. Kenny was just a misstep. I let her get too far in my head, and if I keep trekking in the same direction, I’ll turn into one big emotional pussy.

  After a quick shower, I don’t bother getting dressed. Instead, I wrap a towel around my dripping wet body and venture into the kitchen.

  “The heater worked last night!” She marvels, and my heart sinks like a stone.

  I fired it up while she was gone, hoping she’d come to my bed willingly.

  My chest grows heavy. Kenny managed to deflate my ego with one prick of her tongue. I was nothing more than a heater. And last night, when she didn’t need my services, she didn’t bother to show.

  With all my heart and soul I wish she wanted me. A part of me wants to weep like a schoolgirl at the thought of Kenny getting it on with Cal or any other asshole that happens to rub up next to her.

  My lips twitch a mournful smile. I want to look away, pull my gaze from hers, but she’s hooked me, reeled me in with those sea glass lenses.

  “Look at me, Kenny.” I glance down at my body. “I want you to see every part of me.” I grab a hold of the towel cinched at my waist, and her lips part, her eyes magnify in size at what I’m about to do. She shakes her head ever so slightly, mortified that I had ditched “good morning” and went for the carnal jugular before she could down her coffee. I open the towel, slow and methodical, exposing her in full to every inch of my being.

  Selfishly, I don’t want Kenny to see me for the first time in front of strangers while she tries to sketch me with shade and light. Selfishly, I wish she wanted to see me, to have me all for herself.

  She turns away, quick as a hurricane, and spills the contents of her mug in the process.

  “Shit, Cruise. Good morning to you, too.” She lands her cup hard on the sink and leans toward the window.

  “Lesson of the day.” I come up from behind—adhere myself to the curve of her body and don’t bother to pull away once I feel myself grow. “I want you to see me like this,” I whisper almost ashamed of what I’m asking her to do. “You don’t have to touch. Just look.” It comes out sad, forlorn because I know deep down inside she won’t—that I don’t deserve to have her look at me.

  “Cruise…” She turns her head into my shoulder. She doesn’t say anything, and for a minute, I think she might cry, that I might turn into a giant pussy and join in on the sob-fest.

  I offer a gentle kiss to her cheek, and our lips find one another for the first time in a week. It’s as if she were afraid to kiss me lying in my bed, as if my mouth were the portal to unspoken treasures, and once she entered she could never leave.

  That visual of her touching Cal on the collar, laughing at whatever flew from his lips, rolls through me like rancid fat, and I pull away.

  “I guess I’ll see you in class,” I say, cinching up my towel.

  She takes a breath, never taking her sad eyes off mine. “I guess you will.”



  The Big Surprise

  It’s my birthday.

  I arrive late to Professor Look-At-Me-Naked Elton’s class and take a seat next to the thin-lipped girl who greets me with her traditional snarl.

  Figures. It’s going to be a crap day all around, I can tell.

  I came so close to telling Cruise that I have feelings for him. That I don’t want to pretend to play this sick little game I thought was cute a few short weeks ago. That I actually want to engage in a monogamous relationship with him and do everything with his body that he would ever want, but the words wouldn’t formulate on my lips. Technically, it was his fault for sidelining me by asking me to conduct a body-scan before breakfast. Hell—who am I kidding? I would have inhaled his body for breakfast, but a part of me is holding back. If Cruise doesn’t want just me, then I suppose I shouldn’t want him in that way—and, frighteningly enough, I think I still do.

  “The finality of love.” He belts it out like a song, looking hotter than a bonfire in his dark corduroy jacket, his inky jeans and cowboy boots—my heart lurches just laying eyes on him.

  To hell with it. I’m jumping in his bed tonight and having myself a nice little birthday. He’s wearing cowboy boots for God’s sake. The man doesn’t fight fair.

  “Today, I thought we would touch upon the vulnerability we face once we’ve fallen in love.” Our eyes meet, and he gives a quick wink. Obviously, he thinks love is a joke, and only he and I are privy to the punch line. “Can anybody tell me why a person becomes vulnerable when experiencing love—especially for the very first time?”

  Miss Thin Lips spikes her hand in the air like she’s about to have an accident. Personally, I’m rooting for the accident.

  “Cheryl.” He nods with a prolonged blink.

  Ha! She is totally getting on his last nerve.

  She clears her throat and cuts me a look as if she heard. “It’s because love embroils its participants in a psychological power exchange that takes place once you trust someone with your heart.” She wiggles proud in her seat after dispensing the armchair psychiatry. “If I were to fall in love with someone, and they broke that sacred trust, I would forever be wounded and therefore protect my heart from ever being crushed in such a violent manner again. Naturally, I would build defenses. I might even resort to meaningless sexual exchanges as nothing more than a device to satisfy myself—there wouldn’t be any real love involved because I would probably stop believing in it.”

  Cruise leans against his desk. His face blanches out as he considers this. It’s as though he realizes she diagnosed him so correctly he’s only now aware of the fact his manwhore ways were nothing more than a ruse. In the end, that’s probably all our affections will be reduced to, a meaningless sexual exchange—nothing more than a device to satisfy ourselves—no real love because we don’t believe in it—only now, I think I do.

  Cruise takes a breath. “So the power exchange is what creates the vulnerability between sexual partners, and when the balance is disrupted, it crushes the weaker of the two units.”

  “Not necessarily.” Cheryl straightens at the prospect of conducting a lecture all on her own. “The power exchange doesn’t need to have sexual underpinnings. It could take place with a child and its parents. Plenty of girls are victims of deadbeat fathers and statistics show that girls who grow up without a paternal influence in their lives seek male attention in other ways. Any stripper in the country can testify to this.”

  Cruise cuts an involuntary look in my direction.

  I know what he’s thinking—that I’m rife with daddy issues. He thinks he’s pegged the very reason I’ve decided to descend into whoredom, no thanks to the malnourished wealth of information next to me, espousing her not-so-sage wisdom. And, sadly, both he and she would be right.

  “Kenny,” he says it low, robotic, “you look like you have something to say.”

  I take in a sharp breath. “I guess it’s true.” I look over at Cheryl and watch as her skeletal frame gloats in my direction. “I, like any stripper in the country, can testify to this
. Funny thing is, it was one of my stepfathers who enlightened me to this morsel when I was twelve.”

  “That’s all right, Kenny,” he says it lower than a whisper, as if I’ve shared enough already. Cruise is trying to talk me out of carrying on with the verbal massacre of my adolescence.

  “He already packed his things and was hauling his suitcase out the door.” I take in a ragged breath. “He and my mother had a really big blowout. I remember…he shouted, loud as he could, that I’d grow up to be a tramp just like my mother.” I hold Cruise’s glassy-eyed stare for a very long time. The room, the other students, they melt away like snow—it’s just Cruise and me having an intimate conversation regarding the tumultuous state of my inner child. I had lifted my skirt and bared my shame to everyone in the vicinity. I don’t see the point in stopping now. “That’s why I did it. I held onto my virginity like a very sharp knife. I’d cut anyone who came close to me because I wanted to prove the bastard wrong. I wanted to show the world I would never end up like my mother. I ran from anything that even remotely resembled love and made damn sure it never found me.” Until now.

  Cruise closes his eyes. A seam of liquid seals over his lashes. He turns to the board and takes out his aggression on a tiny piece of chalk as he scrawls out an assignment.

  “Give me a short essay on the vulnerability of love.” He pulls me in with a volatile stare as everyone busies themselves with the task at hand. “Kenny, can I see you in the hall a minute?”

  I take him in like this, the well-dressed authoritarian with his glasses firmly in place, his hair slicked back nice and neat. I think I like the sweaty version, the midnight rendition who presses his stubble into my neck while his hard-on pleads with my body to find it a home.

  “No,” I say and get to the business of writing an essay for my professor.

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