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Authors: Teresa Mummert

Perfect Lie (6 page)

BOOK: Perfect Lie
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“Yeah.” He shook his head and laughed as he pulled another drag. “Probably too X‐rated for a girl like you.”

I didn’t like the way he said “girl,” like I was a fucking child. I grabbed his cigarette and took a drag, my eyes locked on his.

“You don’t look like the type,” he said, as he took it back and pressed it between his lips.

“Looks can be deceiving.” I stared off into the night, the pills slowly starting to dull the anger that throbbed in the back of my head. I wobbled, unsteady, and leaned back on my arms. The cracked wood dug into my elbows, but I was too focused on the wave of euphoria that was slowly licking at my toes and weaving its way through my veins.

“Like this house. It looks like it’s not worth shit, but there are memories here. Old ones.” He looked at me again. “New ones. You have to look past the chipped paint and creaky floorboards, but it’s there.”

I nodded, but my mind was pulsing in waves, and I lay on my back, the splintery wood poking me through my shirt. Abel did the same, and we stared out at the moon as he pulled another drag from his cigarette. The night was quiet, just the sound of our deep breaths as we got lost in our own thoughts. He began to ramble, picking up where he’d left off, but his sentences ran together, and he never seemed to complete a thought.

“You can’t change what’s on the inside…inside people, not the house. The house can be changed.” The cherry from his cigarette blew brighter as he took a long pull and exhaled slowly. “Not really true, though. I changed. Things changed. My whole life…” He tucked his arm under his head to angle his face toward the moon.

“I’ve changed but not really. Changed a lot in some ways, others not at all,” I offered, but my words got caught on my tongue, and I stuttered as I tried to push out a thought. I felt deep, but the translation was lost on its way from my brain to my tongue. I felt like I was sinking into the old wood of the porch, becoming the decrepit house that had been forgotten.

“What are you on?” Abel was on his side, propped on his elbow and looming over me, blocking the light of the moon.

“A dilapidated porch,” I replied with a smirk, as if I’d deciphered a trick question. His eyebrows pulled together, and I wanted to reach out and smooth the skin between them, but I was frozen under the stormy ocean of his eyes.

“Did you take some of those pills?” His body swayed slightly, or maybe my vision was impaired.

“Sorry.” I shrugged and ran my hand over my face. My skin tingled and itched from the medication. I wanted to scratch it all away, peel the paint from my shell, and see whether what was inside was just as fucked up, but I knew it was.

“How many?” His voice was stern, and I felt like I was about to be lectured by my father, but I didn’t have a father, so I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry.

“Two…maybe three.” I fought the smile that tugged at the corner of my lips. The moonlight made him look like an angel with a glowing halo, and I wanted to run my hand through his hair to see if the magic would scatter around him and float off into the thick night air.

“Fuck,” he mumbled as his jaw flexed. He was angry, but it seemed aimed at himself.

“I’m sorry.” I felt sadness inside me, but the pills held it off, kept the tears from ever hitting the surface. I no longer wanted to feel. My thoughts became words, and I pushed myself up to sit too fast. “I don’t belong here.”

His long fingers wrapped around my arms, and he held me firmly in place. “Tonight you do.”

My eyes focused on his lips, and the smell of cookies, toothpaste, and smoke blew over my face. My tongue ran over my lower lip, and I could taste the sin. It was thick and heavy in the air, and it made my head swim as I gazed into Abel’s ocean‐colored eyes. I wondered whether he tasted it too, whether his heart was pounding in his chest. I wondered most of all if it was artificial—a haze of adoration brought on by the pills. It had been so long since I’d wanted that; I didn’t trust my own thoughts, but it felt too good to care.

“Do you want me to call your boyfriend?” His words broke the spell, and I looked up into the endless depths of his eyes and slowly shook my head. “Fuck. He’s going to be pissed.” He stood up and ran his hand through his hair, but I still felt the lingering tingle from his touch and the goose bumps that crept down my arms.

“He won’t be,” I said so quietly that I wasn’t sure he could hear me, but he nodded once, and I swallowed hard. There was no boyfriend; he wasn’t that anymore. He was the only one who ever cared, and now I couldn’t see him, and it was all my fault. The heavy ache in my chest overpowered the high, and I want to scream; I wanted to break something.

“Then he’s just as fucking stupid as I am.” Abel tugged at his sandy‐blond hair, and I smiled as I gazed his green‐blue eyes. He was like a walking slice of summer.

I wanted to defend Brock, place the blame where it should be, but I couldn’t. Doing so would mean explaining, and explaining wasn’t how I coped. I coped with secrets and lies and fake smiles.

“He’s in Mississippi.” That was the only truth I could offer. He was there and I was here, and that was all anyone needed to know.

Abel sat back down next to me, his arms resting on his knees as he shook his head.

“I’m fine,” I told him.

His eyes met mine, and he laughed but without humor. “You’re trouble.” His hand rubbed over my hair like I was a bratty little sister, and I sunk further into the numbness so I wouldn’t have to wonder why that bothered me so much.

“I should check on Trish.” I started to stand up, but Abel grabbed my hand and looped his fingers in mine then pulled me back down.

“You don’t want to go in there. You’ll be scarred for life.”

“It’s not like I haven’t seen her fucking guys before.” The bite in my words shocked me, but I was sick of being treated like her sidekick.

Abel laughed, deep and throaty, his body vibrating beside mine as he pulled his hand from mine. “You’re
like her.”

I don’t know why his words offended me, because it was the truth. I was nothing like Trish.

“You don’t even know me.” I stood, and this time he didn’t grab my hand. He just sat there, staring at the moon, as I disappeared inside.

Trish was pinned under Adam, her shirt pushed up and his removed. She was panting and moaning as the music made the thin walls vibrate.

The other guy ran his hands through his hair, his eyes closed, just feeling. It was an odd scene, and I wanted to look away, but I was curious. What made her so popular? Sure, I got more attention now than I ever did in high school, but it paled compared to her. I’d always be in that shadow.

Chapter Four

Liar, Liar

“You look good enough to eat,” the guy on the couch slurred, and I realized he caught me staring at Trish and Adam. I swayed slightly, feeling tired but electrified.

He stood and walked slowly toward me, but it wasn’t sexy. He reminded me of the killer in scary movies who stalks his prey, walking, plotting, always a step away.

“Gross,” I mumbled, but my words didn’t offend him. He took another step, and I looked down at Trish. She was oblivious to the somersaults inside my stomach. Even if she were remotely coherent, she probably would make fun of me as usual.

I took a step back and rocked on my heels as I bumped into a hard chest. I didn’t need to turn around to know it was Abel. I smelled the smoky cologne all around me.

“Knock it off, Sean, or fucking leave.”

Dirtbag Sean raised his hands like it was an honest mistake and backed up to the couch, falling back as his legs hit the edge.

“At least someone wants to kiss me,” I mumbled angrily, the stab of rejection from Abel still in the forefront of my mind.

“Come on.” Abel slipped his hand in mine and pulled me toward the stairs. I hesitated, pulling away as dizziness swirled my thoughts like a tornado. Abel slipped his hand under my knees and lifted me like a child as he ascended the stairs.

I closed my eyes, bathing in the touch of another person. It had been too long since I’d been hugged, held, or cared for.

We turned left at the top of the stairs and entered a room I hadn’t seen. As he pushed the door open, I blinked, adjusting to the darkness. Abel walked a few steps inside and placed me on a mattress. I
curled onto my side, and a blanket was draped over my legs. I heard the shuffle of his feet and the squeak of the door closing, and I was alone.

I don’t know how long I was able to hold my eyes open, but eventually sleep won out, and I drifted into twisted nightmares and sad memories. The banging sound inside my skull was as real as hearing it with my own ears, and I sat up, soaked in sweat, my throat raw, and worried I may have screamed in real life. The door shoved open, and I saw the silhouette of Abel, wearing only boxer briefs.

“Are you OK?” His voice was throaty and harsh from the night of partying. His eyes darted around the room, and he relaxed when he realized I was alone. I couldn’t relax or stop the tears as they poured down my face, washing away the lies, the perfect facade.

He stepped closer but hesitated, waiting to be welcomed.

“Yes.” My voice cracked under the weight of my lie.

He sighed audibly as his hands ran over his messy hair and he stepped closer. “Nightmare?” He crouched in front of me, and I nodded, not wanting my weakness to show in my words again. “You want a glass of water?”

I shook my head because I felt like a fool. “I just need to catch my breath.” I shoved the blanket all the way off my legs, loving the cool night air against the sticky sweat that clung to my body.

“You want to watch the sun rise?” His head cocked to the side, and I laughed because I was embarrassed.

“I’m sorry I woke you,” I told him.

“You didn’t wake me. I couldn’t sleep either.”

I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth or didn’t want me to feel bad, but it helped, and I smiled.

“Let’s go.” Abel grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. I groaned, my head feeling heavy from the fog of the pills.

I glanced around the room. I’d slept on a single bed, and a dresser was pushed up against the opposite wall. It didn’t seem like a permanent residence, but someone had to be spending a lot of time here. I was thankful they hadn’t show up while I was sleeping.

“Let me grab my pants.” Abel disappeared into the room where we’d smoked last night, and my heart sank. He had slept in an empty room on the hard wooden floor because I had fucked up…as usual.

“Were you supposed to sleep in the bed last night?” I asked, as I watched the muscles in his back pull and stretch as he bent down to pull his jeans on.

He grabbed a cigarette from his pack and lit it, turning to face me, his pants undone and riding low on his tanned hips.

“Nah. I was going to sleep on one of the couches, but our friends got a little crazy last night. I needed to be alone.”

I nodded but didn’t believe him, and I felt worse. He waited for me to leave the room and followed behind as we crept down the creaky steps to the front door. I glanced into the living room and saw a mass of blond hair and tangled limbs. I shook my head as I stepped into the fresh, warm air. The clouds were starting to fade into color as I sat on the steps and stared at the sky.

“I try never to be up early enough to see this.” I laughed as Able sat next to me.

“I never seem to sleep through a full night.” He looked at the ground, and I knew he had a story to tell, but it wasn’t mine to hear. I barely knew him, and the last thing he probably wanted was a stranger prying into his business. I merely nodded, knowing exactly how he felt.

“How long have you known Trish?” I asked him.

He shrugged. “I don’t really. I know
her. Adam has a big mouth.”

“I say the same thing about Trish.”

His lips twisted into a knowing smile, and he laughed quietly as he stared at the sky. I felt guilty for talking badly about her, even if what I’d said was true. Trish never would have argued about what kind of person she was. She knew; she just didn’t care, and I envied her for that.

The clouds grew pink and purple, and the sky transformed into blue as we watched.

“Why Florida?” I asked, as I rubbed my bare legs, wishing again I had worn jeans.

“You tell me.” He glanced at me, and neither of us was giving in, so I changed the subject, because that was how I dealt with things. I changed, adapted, and disappeared.

“Why don’t you go to class?” I asked, and more silence followed as he pulled a deep drag from his cigarette and flicked it out into the grass.

“I learned all I need to know about life. I don’t want to waste another second of my time.”

“Wow. You’re cynical.” I laughed, but I got it and couldn’t judge.

He leaned back on his palms, stretching out, his stomach soaking up the first rays of daylight. I tried not to look, but it was nearly impossible.

“I’m not giving up or anything,” he said.

“I’m not judging…” My voice trailed off as I breathed in the fresh morning air tainted by Abel’s smoke. There was nothing to really say. Our topic was too deep for strangers and the first light of dawn.

“Did you run from your problems?” I asked him. “Is that why you chose Florida?”

He sighed loudly, and I felt like I may have crossed the line, but I was honestly curious as to what could make one of the perfect people be so melancholy.

“I didn’t run. I didn’t choose.” His eyes met mine, and I realized he wasn’t comfortable with the direction our casual conversation had taken.

The sun was out from behind the wisps of clouds, and I already could tell today was going to be unbearably hot.

“You’re stubborn.” I sighed as my eyes fell closed, and I relished in the warmth of the sun on my face. My eyes snapped open with Abel’s laughter.

“Like looking in a mirror, ain’t it?”

I rolled my eyes, but I knew he was right. I was sarcastic and rude. Just add those to the list of my many flaws.

“Hungry?” he asked, and looked my way as I closed my eyes again, angling my head to the sky.

I nodded. I was starving but didn’t want to bring it up. It wasn’t my house, and I didn’t think I could hold down cookies for breakfast.

BOOK: Perfect Lie
9.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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