She Loves You, She Loves You Not...

BOOK: She Loves You, She Loves You Not...
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It’s Our Prom

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To Sherri,
you rock my world


The night Sarah and Ben showed up out of the blue. You should’ve known or suspected something was wrong. The vibe was weird, but then it had been for a while, and Sarah was… Sarah. Up in your room even, when she kissed you and you lost yourself in her. The moment it all came crashing down.

On the plane ride here, to the vast unknown that is Carly, the stupidest thing kept running through your brain. That toy in Dad’s office. You learned at some point it wasn’t a toy, that it had a name: Newton’s swing. Steel balls in a row suspended on a frame. When you pulled balls back on one end and let them go, the same number of balls swung out from the opposite end. The harder you let go of the balls, the farther out the balls on the other side flew. You even remembered the principle, that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. How many hours did you spend in Dad’s office playing with those balls? He’d say, “Cut it out, Alyssa. You’re driving me nuts.”

The physics law works not only on objects but on people. Because of Sarah’s action, her force and thrust on your life, you went flying into space and spinning out of control.


What does a stripper keep in her closet? The left side is packed with low-cut tops, short skirts, and dresses. No real skankwear. The clothes don’t reek of smoke or booze. Carly has this silk kimono with an embroidered lotus on the back that’s very cool. I take out the robe to hold it up to me in the mirror, and then I hear the front door open. Quickly, I stuff the kimono back in the closet and slither out of Carly’s room.

“Alyssa. You’re up,” she says as I casually saunter down the stairs from the loft. Does she think I sleep all day? She sets her workbag on a chair in the dining room and digs into the front pocket for her cell.

“You got a lot of calls,” I tell her.

“Here?” She peers over her shoulder at the cordless in the kitchen.

“I didn’t answer them,” I say. “I only saw a couple of IDs. Someone named Geena?”

“Did I forget to charge my cell again? I keep doing that. Spacey.” She knuckles her head.

“And Mitchell.”

Carly sighs. “Did the phone keep you up?”

“No. I wasn’t asleep.” I wish I could sleep, but every time I close my eyes, I think of Sarah.

Carly slips off her high heels and pads across the dining room to listen to her messages, checking to see how many johns have called. I’m just guessing. She fishes through her purse, finds her cell, and plugs it in. “You’re welcome to have people call you here,” she says. “I can get you a separate number or switch over your cell service so it’s free.”

“That’s okay.” I don’t want to tell her no one would call me; no one wants to talk to me ever again. Besides, I won’t be here that long.

At the wet bar she pours herself a glass of wine. “Why don’t you give me your cell number, and I’ll give you mine.”

“I don’t have a cell,” I tell her.

She arches her eyebrows as she sips. Swallowing, she says, “Why not?”

I hesitate. “Dad took it away.”

She lowers her wineglass. “Why?”

I don’t want to tell her.

She shakes her head. “He’s such a prick.”

I’d like to agree, but Dad was right to take my phone. I have no control over my impulses.

“Have you eaten?” Carly asks. “I don’t even know what you like to eat. What do you like?”

“I’m not hungry.”

She cocks her head at me like,
I know you’re lying
. With her long fake fingernails, she presses the telephone number pad. I
wander over to the French doors, my back to her, watching her reflection in the glass. She removes a hoop earring and sets it on the counter.

“Geena, hi,” she says into the phone. “I just got in, so I want to eat and shower before tonight. Go ahead without me. I’ll see you at Willy’s.” She listens and then laughs. “Hey, girl. It’s a living.”

I take in the view—the bare side of a mountain. If I remember right, Carly called it Caribou Mountain. I feel her eyes on the back of my head, so I twist around and force a weak smile. She pulls the scrunchie from her ponytail and, shaking out her hair, says, “You have my eyes. You should let me give you eyelash extensions.”

I stifle a gag.

Her phone rings again, distracting her from me. Her business card says she’s a massage therapist and personal trainer. I know it’s a cover for how she spends her days. She doesn’t even try to hide that she’s a stripper by night.

She ignores the caller and turns back around. “You need your brows shaped too.” From her bag, she retrieves a leather case. She unzips it, and inside are fake eyelashes and glue and makeup. She pulls a chair out at the dining room table and motions me to sit.

When I don’t obey, she juts out a hip and fists it.

I want to say,
Don’t tell me what to do. You’re not my mother.
Except—she is.

She pats the back of the chair. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”

“No, thanks.” It comes out kind of snotty. As I pass in front of her, I resist the urge to check out her eyes.

The only time we’ve spent together before now was an occasional Saturday when she was passing through town on her way to New York or Miami or wherever she was working at the time. She’d drop by out of the blue to take me for the day. It always pissed Dad off. He hates Carly.

And now his hate extends to me.

“I’m going to work out for a while before dinner,” she says, stretching her arms over her head, interlocking her fingers. “You could join me. We could talk.” She smiles.

Does she think I’m fat? I’m not as tall and thin as she is, although I’ve probably lost fifteen pounds in the last month, with being sick and the trauma around Sarah.

“Would it be okay if I watched TV?” I ask.

“Of course. You can do whatever you want, Alyssa. Consider this your home.” She opens her arms to me, like
Come get a hug
. I won’t go running to her just because she’s here now and I need her. A lump rises in my throat, and I don’t want to lose it in front of her.

The plasma TV is in the formal living room, so I veer off that way. Carly says, “Not in there.”

The sharpness of her voice stops me cold.

“There’s a high def in the family room and one downstairs in my exercise room.” The trilling of her cell snags her attention again. As she slides it open, she hustles up the stairs to the loft.

I watch TV for, like, ten minutes and get bored. Up in my room, which is actually a
room, not
room, I plug in my nano earbuds to listen to my music. I must fall asleep, because when I open my eyes, it’s dark out. Goose bumps prickle my skin.

She keeps the air-conditioning on Siberia. In stocking feet, I make my way to the panel in the downstairs hallway, the electronics control center, and punch off the fan. There’s a note on the dining room table, propped up against a bowl of floating daisies.




She left me her American Express card.

I feel weird spending her money, eating her food. Just… being here.

This grip of loneliness begins in my stomach and crawls up my chest and lungs and throat. I pick a daisy out of the bowl and hold it to my nose, closing my eyes, and the bitter odor reminds me of Sarah and home and… everything.

I pluck a petal. “She loves you.” I drop it in the bowl and pluck another. “She loves you not….”

A volcano of hurt erupts inside, and I burst into tears.

Virginia Beach

Last September, first day of junior year

You saw Sarah in the hallway. You didn’t know her name then; you’d never seen her before. She glanced right, then left. She turned in a circle. You recognized that first-day panic. You told M’Chelle and Ben to go ahead and you’d catch up. “Um, can I help you?” you asked.

“Yes!” she cried. “I’m so lost. I thought I knew where my next class was, but it’s not here. It should be right here.” She pointed to a wall where a
banner was taped. “Is this like a tricked-out school or something, where doors appear and disappear?”

“That would actually be interesting,” you said.

She laughed. You took her class schedule and immediately determined the problem. “You want 104B, not C. I don’t know why they numbered the rooms exactly the same in every wing. It’s confusing.”

“I’ll say.”

You handed back her schedule, and she smiled into your eyes.

At the time you thought she looked young, with her braces and ponytail, her too-new jeans and brand-new layered tops right off the back-to-school rack. You remember how terrified you were the first day of freshman year. You said, “I’m going that way if you want me to show you.”

“Would you? God, I’d love you forever.”

The gauge on your gaydar jumped a few notches.
Down, girl,
you chided yourself.

She was cute. Too much to hope she might be a lesbian. Too young for you, anyway.

As you walked down the corridor, she said, “I’m Sarah.”

“Alyssa.” The late buzzer sounded, and you had to hustle to find her class and then get to yours in the adjoining wing. The next time you saw her was in the gym during club week. You and M’Chelle volunteered to man (make that
) the Gay/Straight Alliance table. You were supposed to talk to people about what the GSA was, the goals and mission, hand out information and permission slips. Was Ben there? He might’ve had to man (make that
girly man
) the Gaming Club table.

“Ooh, I love to recruit,” M’Chelle said, checking out the freshmen who were trickling in. She rubbed her hands together. “Fresh meat.”

“Stop.” You elbowed her.

She slapped a rainbow sticker on your forehead, and you immediately removed it.

Almost everyone made a wide berth around your table. Except her. She headed straight for you.

“Hi, Alyssa,” she said.

She remembered your name. “Um, hi.” You didn’t remember hers.

“Hi,” she said to M’Chelle, “I’m Sarah.”

Sarah. That was it.

BOOK: She Loves You, She Loves You Not...
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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