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Authors: Melissa Pearl

Betwixt, Before, Beyond (22 page)

BOOK: Betwixt, Before, Beyond
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"It's okay. I'm sorry for crying. I didn't mean to make you feel bad. It was...Dwight and I have only done it a few times
, and it hasn't gone that well. What we did today was like...amazing. I guess I just feel bad for having such an awesome time with you, when I should really be trying to make things work with my boyfriend."

"Or you could just dump him." I grip the strap of my bag.

She chuckles and shrugs. "I love him, Dale."

I want to puke at her sweet words, but nod instead.

Resting her hand against my chest, she lets out a breathy laugh. "At least what we did today was just sex. I mean it didn't mean anything, right?"

My mouth is too dry to speak. Once again
, I'm a little speck of dirt on the sole of someone's shoe. Just sex. Thanks a lot, Jasmine.

I nod and use all my bravado to paste on a really big smile. "Just really good sex."

She giggles.

"If you ever do dump that loser, keep me in mind."

Her face takes on a serious edge, her eyes glimmering with a soft smile. "Whatever happens with Dwight, what we did today will stay in my head forever. Our secret interlude that no one can touch."

This makes me feel a little better. I rub her arm, grateful that she tried.

"See you around, Dale."

"Yep." I watch her walk away and wave back at her.

At least I made her feel good. I hitch my bag higher onto my shoulder and slump into the school, wishing my little escape from my problems would actually make me feel better, but it only made things worse. All my problems from the night before consume me, weighing a ton and making me want to crumple to the floor.

I can barely walk as I turn the corner and run straight into Principal Timmons.

 

Chapter
Eight

 

Well, my day officially sucked. Yes, even taking into account the awesome sex had on the hood of a Camaro. Principal Timmons dragged me into his office and read me the riot act. My grades were poor. I was skipping school. I constantly looked exhausted. He went on about his concerns with substance abuse. I tried to tell him I wasn't on anything, but I don't know whether he believed me or not.

He then went one step further and on the spot, calle
d my dad. I sat in huffing silence until twenty minutes later, my somber father slinked through the door.

I was expecting some major anger vibes, but instead I got waves of sad disappointment, which are so much worse.

After a brief discussion with the principal, I was sent back to class and told that I’d better be home straight after school. It was impossible to concentrate for the rest of the day. I spotted Jasmine last period, and she couldn't even look at me.

I'm now walking up the path to my front door. The urge to turn and run is strong. I don't want to face my parents right now. I don't want another lecture
, and I really don't want to be sent to live with my great-grandparents.

I walk in to find Mom and Dad sitting at the dining table. Mom's been crying. Dad
is holding her hand, his expression grave.

"Sit down, son."

I drop my bag to the floor and reluctantly head for the chair furthest from them. I go for my silent stare, which I know unnerves my mother. It works, and her gaze flutters to the table top.

Dad presses his lips together then lets out a tired huff. "This isn't good enough, Dale. We raised you better than this."

I roll my eyes and glare at the ceiling.

"You look at me when I'm talking to you!" Dad's anger makes me grit my teeth. Here we go again. I take my time swallowing and very slowly drag my gaze towards him. The disappointment is not so strong. Now he just looks plain pissed...much easier to deal with. I smirk.

Dad's eyebrows dip together, making his forehead crinkle out of shape.

"What am I supposed to do with you? Do you know how people will be talking now? My own son is throwing his life away. How do you think that makes me look?"

Really? That's what he's going with? How it looks!

Anger sparks inside me as I sit up straight and clear my throat.

"I don't give a shit about how it makes you look." My voice comes out thin and strained. Shaking my head, I can feel the bottle top starting to rattle. I usually take these lectures in morose silence, but not today. It's been so heinous I might as well finish it off by lumping steamy piles of dog turd over it as well. And after what I found out last night, they can screw their appearance. I'm not putting up with this shit anymore. "That's all you guys care about, isn't it? What people are going to say and think? To hell with them. It's not even about your damn church!"

"Watch your mouth." Dad slams the table and I jump up, spinning on them in a rage.

"You guys are full of it! Another lecture? Seriously? You're gonna slap me with that bullshit again?"

Mom throws her hands in the air. "That's not what we're trying to do. We want to help you, Dale."

"Really? Because all I usually hear is crap about how bad I am and how I need even more rules dumped on me. You know what? It's not that helpful! And if you think grounding me and forcing me to go to church and hang out with those stupid youth group punks who think they're so holy because they talk to God everyday works? You're just as stupid as they are."

I kick the chair leg with the toe of my Converse.

"And then of course there's the icing on the cake." I slap my hands on the table like a drum roll and mimic my mother in the most mocking voice I can muster. "Oh Dale, we're so disappointed in your behavior. Why can't you be more like Rachel?"

Mom's skin blanches and Dad's mouth drops open. "Dale
—"

"No, it's my turn. You don't get to talk today. You don't get to lecture, because you know what?" I press my finger into the table. "Like hell you are sending me to live with Mom's grandparents. She hates them. It's always been obvious. You guys don't have contact with hardly anyone from your past
, and I now know why."

Mom swallows, looking more than guilty. That is at least a little satisfying.

"You've been lying to me this whole time. You don't have the right to tell me how to live when you guys were screwing in high school and not even smart enough to use protection."

"That's enough, Dale."
Dad points at me.

"Yeah, whatever. You're such a hypocrite. Always talking as if you're holier than everybody else, but you're just as human as me. You don't care that I'm lost right now. You don't care that I can't figure out what I want or how I'm supposed to survive this life. All you care about is how it will look to your parishioners.
What will they say about my kid? Will it tarnish my reputation?
You know what, Dad? I don't give a shit about your reputation."

Dad's lips pinch together, his skin mottling with angry hues of red.

"I don't even care about your God. I don't want to know Him. Because all God means to me is rules. Rules and regulations. You talk about how you're praying for me, but what are you saying? Are you asking God to fix me so that I'll fall into line and be a good boy for a change? Because you should be asking God to help
you
love me, just as I am."

Where the hell did that come from?

The shocked silence in the room is nearly deafening. I haul in some air and point at them.

"All I've ever felt from you guys is disappointment, anger that you couldn't pull me into line and make me something I'm not. I love Rachel, but I don't want
to be like her and if that's what it takes to be loved by your God, then screw it. I'll go to hell instead, because at least I'll be with people who actually think I'm cool."

I don't wait for a response. I collect my bag and walk out the door before my parents can even think what to say. The ash in my chest sits heavy, trying to suffocate me. I don't know where I want to go, but find myself walking to Hugh's place. I might crash there for a few days, in spite of the stale salami.

I try to run over my epic speech to Mom and Dad again, but I can't remember everything I said. For some reason I feel like crying, not just little tears, but big, full-on lumpy ones. I want to curl into a ball and weep. I have no idea why. I grip the handle of my bag and pick up my pace, wanting to get as far away from my parents as I can, ignoring the small part of me that wants to run back, wrap my arms around my mother and cry against her shoulder like a little kid.

 

Chapter Nine

 

Hugh doesn't ask any questions when I turn up on his doorstep, which suits me just fine. We lounge around in his living room until his mom splits for work at nine-thirty, and then we're out the door. We pick up Luis on the way and head over to Mason's place.

I didn't even know there was a party planned, but when we get there, the door is wide open and people are crowding every downstairs room. I hunt the floor for Carly. I don't know why. It's not like I'm in the mood for it right now, but maybe it will make me feel better.

I scan the gyrating crowd in the cleared out dining room and wave at a couple of familiar faces...then my eyes land on Jasmine. Why does she have to be here tonight?

Her eyes pop wide when she spots me
, and she dips her head. Dwight is standing in front of her, his big hands on her little hips. Hips I had run my hands over only hours ago. I can still feel her smooth skin. I bunch my fingers into a fist and breathe out my nose, turning from the sight of Jasmine snuggling into Dwight's chest.

"What was that all about?"

I jerk at the sound of Carly's terse question.

"What?" I mumble, annoyed that she'd been watching over my shoulder.

"Who is that girl?" Carly points at the dance floor.

"No
one." I try to grab Carly's hand and pull her out of the room. Maybe I can distract her in one of the bedrooms. She yanks her hand free.

"She's not no one. I just saw her face. Is something going on between you two?"

"No." I sound immature and pissy, but at least I'm telling the truth. Jasmine made it very clear that today was just sex and nothing more.

Carly crosses her arms, looking pretty dark. Her long finger taps on her elbow, her left hip sticks out
, and she looks like a sexy school teacher. I take one look at that raised eyebrow of hers and shake my head.

"Forget it." I wave my hand and start weaving my way out of the room. I so can't be bothered with this right now.

Hugh's at the front door, leaning against the entrance wall, trying to chat up some short chick with an obnoxious giggle. "Let's get out of here, man."

Hugh glares at me, flicking his head to tell me he's busy.

I get it. I do.

But I'm in a foul mood and instead of walking away quietly like I usually would, I decide to be a total prick.

"You know he's only fifteen, right?" I point my thumb at him.

"What?" The girl steps away. "You said you were eighteen."

"I didn't...you didn't specifically ask my age."

Her no-nonsense expression makes me laugh.

"You implied it, you little asshole. Go home to mommy."

The girl pushes past us while Hugh lands a sharp jab at my shoulder. "You're a dick, Finnigan."

I rub my aching shoulder with a chuckle. "Sorry, man, but she was too old for you."

"Whatever Cougar Hunter. Carly's
like twenty."

"Eighteen actually. How old was she?" I point behind me.

"I don't know." Hugh shrugs. "College."

I hiss. "Sorry, dude."

"Whatever," Hugh mumbles. "Let's just get the hell out of here."

We decide to ditch Luis and saunter away from the noise. Hugh lights a cigarette and doesn't even offer me one. I guess I deserve that. I don't really know what to say to him. I'm not usually so horrible. He probably could have had a chance with that girl if I hadn't ruined it.

I'm tempted to apologize again, but for some reason, the words will not form in my mouth. Instead, I slap his shoulder. "I've got an idea."

Hugh blows a mouthful of smoke into my face. I brush it away with a dry expression, but totally let him have it. I have some making up to do.

"I get it. You're pissed. But, I've got an idea. Trust me. It's good."

He takes in another slow drag and trots after me. I check out street signs as I go, trying to remember where I saw the luscious car Mason and I hijacked that first time. Two turns later and
I'm gazing at something even better. It's not the Corvette I was expecting, but this car is way cool.

"Is that a 1969 Dodge Charger?" I slap Hugh's chest and feel my belly stir as I take in my friend's massive grin.

"I don't know the year, man, but that is a
beautiful
Dodge Charger." Hugh throws his cigarette on the ground and stamps it out. "That...that Dodge is begging to be driven."

I nod. "Well, we shouldn't keep her waiting then."

We grin at each other like two cheeky monkeys and sneak towards the black beast. For reasons beyond me, Hugh goes for the passenger's door. I was totally going to let him drive, but hey, I won't fight it if he's not interested. I slip out the long bobby pin tool Mason gave me a couple of weeks ago and decide to give it a try. The Slim Jim I would usually use is in my bag at Hugh's place. I knew I should have brought it.

It takes longer than normal and Hugh starts getting antsy on
look-out duty. I wiggle the lock with a bit more force, nearly ready to quit. But then I hear that triumphant little pop, and I open the door with a grin.

"Get in," I whisper.

Hugh scrambles in while I hot wire the engine. It rumbles to life way louder than I expected it to. Freaked the owner will pop out of the house to investigate, I tear away from the curb and make it down the street in double time. We lurch into the traffic laughing our heads off and speed towards the highway.

Hugh offers me a smoke soon after that
, and we cruise along like kings, relaxed and arrogantly confident. We're gone for nearly an hour. I offer Hugh a drive twice, but he seems happy in the passenger seat, with his head tipped back, blowing streams of smoke into the car.

I finish my second cig
arette and throw it out the window, turning into the street we started at. I'm expecting to park the car exactly as I left it and run for Mason's place. What I'm not expecting is flashing police lights and an irate man standing in the street.

He turns at the sound of his Dodge, his eyes rounding with rage. Pointing at the car, he shouts a dozen curses while the police order me to pull over. I notice one of them place his hand on the holster of his weapon
, and I crack. Shoving the car into reverse, I accelerate away from the scene.

"What the hell are you doing?" Hugh yells as I spin the car around and take off in the opposite direction.

"You really want to go to jail?"

"No!" Hugh hangs on as I swerve around a corner, nearly losing control.

The sirens are catching up to us as I accelerate through suburban streets. I'm hitting 80 as I speed through an intersection nearly causing an accident.

"Shit! Slow down, Finnigan!"

I can't. I'm too pumped. I'm too determined not to get busted. I hold the wheel with tight hands, trying to even out my breathing. It's not working. My insides are going nuts as I careen out of another street and nearly crash into a squad car. I pull on the wheel, and the car spins. Slamming on the brakes, I try to gain control and by some miracle end up missing the police car by less than an inch.

It's on my tail in a
micro-second, and I know it's useless. I glance at Hugh, all pale and scared beside me and know what I have to do. Pulling into the first dark alley I can find, I slam on the brakes.

"Go, man."

"What?" In spite of Hugh's question, he's reaching for the door handle.

"Run!" I push his shoulder and he's out the door, jumping the nearest fence as the squad car pulls into the alley behind me.

I push my foot down hard and lurch forward, the engine rumbling an urgent song. We're nearly out the end of the alley. I'm about to turn onto the street and try for a useless attempt at freedom when a second police car pulls in front of me. I can either brake now or smash straight into it.

I'm tempted not to brake, but my foot is obviously smarter than my brain
, and the car slows to a pitiful stop.

Instructions are yelled at me, but it takes a while for me to figure out what's being said. My mind is fighting off
a numb fuzz. Finally, I manage to open the door and get out of the vehicle with my hands raised.

A gun is pointed at my head as I drop to my knees and place my hands behind my head. The officer who cuffs me is anything but gentle. The feel of the metal tightening around my wrists makes my heart spasm.

I'm hauled to my feet and led to the back of a police car. I don't know what's about to happen to me. Jail horror stories paralyze my brain. I don't even notice the city flash by as I'm driven to the police station.

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