Home > One Small Thing(16)

One Small Thing(16)
Author: Erin Watt

I guess this is why I can’t hate him. The rest of the world does it for me.

I open my mouth to explain, but the boy on the stairs speaks first.

“Dude, we already knew that. Why do you think we’re having this party in the first place? It’s Chase’s welcome-home bash.” He finishes climbing the steps until he’s practically toe-to-toe with Jeff. “And you’re ruining our vibe, so why don’t you and your girl here show yourselves to the door.”

“Like I’d want to hang out with losers like you.” Jeff grabs my arm. “We’re going. It stinks in here anyway. I’ve crapped in toilets nicer than this place.”

The boy steps closer to us.

“We’re sorry,” I say hurriedly. “We’ll be going now.”

This time it’s me grabbing Jeff’s arm and pulling. Jeff doesn’t balk, but he does complain, “Why’d you say I was sorry? I’m not sorry. These guys are assholes. Who throws a welcome-home party for a killer? No one but a bunch of lowlifes.”

“Jeff, there’s like thirty of them and two of us,” I hiss. “Can you shut up before we get destroyed?”

He jerks out of my grip. “Whose side are you on?”

“What are you talking about?”

We reach the sidewalk and he pins me with a glare that chills my bare arms. “I’m asking you why you’re always defending Manson.” His voice is low.

Guilt makes me defensive. “I’m not always defending him. I did it once and that’s because you were all giving me a headache. I’m tired of hearing about him.”

“Then you should go to the principal’s office and get him kicked out.”

“No. I don’t want to do that.” But hadn’t I thought about that on the ride over? About how much easier my life would be if I didn’t have to deal with Chase every day?

Jeff shakes his head and walks to the driver’s side. “I don’t get you,” he says over the roof of his car. “Manson is bad news. It’s fucking disgusting to have you and him in the same school let alone the same classes. Besides—” he points to the front door of the house “—look at the trash he hangs out with. That doesn’t belong at Darling. You’re the only one who can get him expelled.”

“That’s not true.”

“You’re her sister.” His features harden. “Rach wouldn’t want her little sister going to the same school as her killer.”

Hearing him use her nickname hurts my heart. “Rachel is gone,” I say shakily.

Anger flashes in his eyes. “If you won’t do it for your own sake, what about me?”

“I...”

“You think it’s easy for me to see him every day? He took away the most important person in my life. Rachel was it for me.”

His passionate declaration doesn’t fully sit with me. Jeff and Rachel were sixteen when they were going out—that feels a bit too young for Jeff to know that they were it. And even if they were each other’s soul mates, I don’t know how to explain to Jeff that getting Chase kicked out of Darling feels all kinds of wrong. If it happens, I’m not going to complain, I guess, but I’m not actively going to campaign for it.

“Well?” Jeff prompts.

“It doesn’t feel right,” I say.

He snorts. “Fine. Maybe you need to think about it some more.” He opens his car door and gets in and, before I can respond, he speeds off, leaving me choking in his exhaust.

“Jeff! Jeff!”

I sprint after him. There’s a stop sign ahead. I’ll catch him there. I run faster, but Jeff doesn’t even stop. He guns the car around the corner and by the time I reach the intersection, his taillights are a half mile away.

“You asshole!” I scream after him.

I can’t believe he left me here. I don’t even have a phone!

I jab my fingers in my hair, trying not to panic. What am I supposed to do now? Is he going to come back for me? I heave a shaky sigh and sink down into a crouch.

There’s something wrong with me. Clearly. Jeff is more torn up being around Chase than I am. Rachel’s my sister. Jeff dated her for less than a year. But he can’t stand to be around Chase. Me, I’m sticking up for him, just like Jeff accused.

And the thing is, I feel guilty that I don’t defend him more.

I don’t know what’s going on with me anymore. I’m so confused. About everything. I have no direction. No career goals. No passion. No ride home.

I’m sitting on the sidewalk in another town where I don’t know anyone but the guy who killed my sister. And worse, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.

No one does. Scarlett’s mad at me. Jeff’s mad at me. My parents hate me.

I push to my feet. Maybe if I was more... What? More obedient? More robot-like?

Fuck that. I want to have a life. I want to have fun. All these people are choking the life out of me, telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. That includes Chase. I’m done with him, too. He said he doesn’t want or need my support. Then I’m not giving it to him. He doesn’t deserve it.

“He leave you here?” a deep voice asks from behind me.

I turn around to see a stranger. I squint. Was this someone from Kavill’s house?

“How did you know?”

The boy grins. “I saw the whole thing from my porch. Mad about Kav’s party? He’s kind of a straightedge, but you can come over to my place. I don’t have a hot tub like Kav, but I’ve got some other fun party favors.”

“You sound like a villain from a Stephen King novel,” I tell him bluntly.

Surprisingly, the boy throws his head back and laughs. “Got a little tongue on you, do you?” he says before sticking out his hand. “I’m Jay Tanner. I go to school with Kav.” He pulls out his phone. “Look, I’ve got his number right here. Call him and check it out.”

Jay doesn’t know that I’m totally abandoned. He thinks I know the kids inside of Greg Kavill’s house and that we left because the party was too tame. I’m too embarrassed to admit I don’t know Kav at all, so I say, “Nah, it’s fine.”

“Then come over. You’ll have fun,” he says. “I promise.”

I find myself following him across the street and down the block. He didn’t lie. His house is only a few addresses away from Kav’s. I can hear the music as we walk up the sidewalk. There are plenty of lights on inside the house and from what I can see, there are lots of kids, as well. My spirits lift.

“I’m Beth,” I tell him.

“Nice to meet you, Beth. What school do you go to?”

“Lex,” I lie. If I say Darling, he’ll assume things.

“I know Harvey Bassett. You have any classes with him?”

We climb the three steps of the front porch. He holds the door for me.

“Lex is a big school,” I answer, because I have no clue who Bassett is.

“Yeah, that’s true. How do you know Kav?”

“Friend of a friend.”

Inside, the place is smaller than it appears outside. It might be the music. It’s so loud it feels like a physical assault, but at least I don’t have to answer any more uncomfortable questions.

Jay makes a drinking motion with his hand. I nod. He holds up one finger and disappears deeper into the house. No one stares at me. No one even really notices that I’m here. They’re dancing or making out on the sofa or playing a video game. I relax and wait for Jay to come back.

He reappears with two red cups. I accept mine and take a cautious sip. A sweet rather than bitter taste hits my tongue.

“You like?” he shouts in my ear.

I shoot him a thumbs-up. If there’s alcohol in here, I can’t taste it. I take a big swallow. And then another. And then another until it’s completely gone.

“I’ll get you a refill,” he yells.

I nod gratefully but have to stop as soon as his back is turned. The nodding made me dizzy. My legs feel weak. I hold an arm out to steady myself. What I really need is to sit down, I decide.

I find a set of stairs and plop down on the first one, ignoring the couple halfway up that are practically humping each other.

Jay comes back with two more glasses and a big grin. I’m going to make this one last, I think. But it’s so good.

So good.

I guess I’ll just have one more.

Or maybe two. Yeah. I’ll stop at two.

13

I wake up to the sound of a jackhammer. It’s the loudest, most annoying noise I’ve ever heard. It’s so loud it actually makes me sick—my stomach turns over a few times, nausea creeping like sickly strands of ivy up my throat.

It takes me a few seconds to realize that the deafening pounding is actually in my head and not coming from outside at all. And I feel sick because I’m drunk.

Groaning softly, I try to get my bearings. When I do, my stomach churns even harder.

Jay is lying beside me.

I fight through my queasiness and try to focus. The room is dark, but there are no curtains on the window and moonlight is streaming in. We’re on a double bed, with about three feet of space between us. He’s snoring softly. We’re both fully clothed.

I almost keel over with relief. I’m still dressed. Oh, thank God. I quickly look around the small bedroom and find no signs that at one point I may have undressed. The bedspread is still on the bed, only slightly rumpled from me and Jay lying on it. There are no empty condom wrappers or pieces of underwear scattered on the floor.

Still, that doesn’t mean something didn’t happen. Maybe we got dressed right afterward. Maybe—I almost throw up again—maybe we didn’t use protection.

Tears flood my eyes. Oh my God. At least with Chase last week, I was completely sober. I knew what I was doing. Just because I regretted it afterward doesn’t mean I was coerced or forced into it. I wanted to have sex that night.

This time...

   
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