Home > One Small Thing(17)

One Small Thing(17)
Author: Erin Watt

As panic courses through my veins, I give Jay’s shoulder a violent shake. “Wake up,” I beg.

He’s midsnore when his eyelids pop open, and he makes a startled noise that’s a cross between a snort and a whimper. “What is it? What’s happening?”

It would almost be comical if I weren’t two seconds from both puking and having a nervous breakdown. “What...what did we do?” I ask, imploring him with my eyes. “I don’t remember anything. Did we...” I gulp hard. “Did we fool around?”

To my surprise, he just laughs. “Uh, no.”

“No?” I’m skeptical, because then why else would I be in this guy’s bedroom?

“No,” he assures me before rolling onto his side, facing me. His eyes fall shut as he adds, “I’m gay, Beth. Told you that like five times. You know, when you kept trying to make out with me.”

Embarrassment heats my cheeks. Hazy memories begin to surface, and... Yeah, I remember him gently prying my lips off his neck and explaining that even though I’m a very pretty girl, I’m totally not his type. And then he brought me upstairs after I admitted that I didn’t have any way of getting home and nowhere to spend the night.

“Now, come back to bed,” he says sleepily. “I was just starting to fall asleep before you attacked me.”

Just starting to fall asleep? When had we come up here? It feels like it was hours ago. Squinting, I peer at the alarm clock on the end table: 12:34 a.m. It’s not even that late. And although I don’t have a phone, I do have some cash. I can call a cab and go home instead of crashing at the house of some guy I don’t even know.

If my parents are waiting up, which I’m sure they will be, I’ll just pretend Jeff dropped me off. I’ll tell them the same dumb story Jeff planned to recite, about us falling asleep after building his stupid arbor. Either way, my parents will freak, but they’ll freak out more if I don’t come home on a school night. Missing curfew is better than staying out all night.

At the thought of Jeff, anger mingles with the queasy knot in my belly. I cannot believe he left me.

“Can I use your phone?” I ask Jay.

His eyes stay closed. “Mmm-hmm. On the desk.”

I climb off the mattress as quietly as possible, but the moment my body is vertical, a wave of sickness slams into me like a speeding train. Vomit races up my throat and instead of going to the desk, I run into the hall in search of a bathroom. I make it to a toilet just in time to throw up every single ounce I drank tonight, as well as the remains of the nachos I ate with Jeff earlier. I’m sure my retching noises probably woke up Jay and whoever else is in the house, but I feel a million times better once I’ve emptied my stomach.

Well, kind of. Physically, yes, I feel better. Emotionally, I’m a fucking mess.

Shakily, I get to my feet and wash up at the sink. When I stare at my reflection, I see bloodshot eyes, tangled hair and a paste-white face. A few tears leak out and trickle down my cheeks. I weakly brush them away with the backs of my hands.

What the hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m not even in control of myself anymore and I hate it. I hate the person looking back at me in that mirror. I was upset and panicked about Jeff abandoning me in this unfamiliar neighborhood, and instead of reacting like a levelheaded person, I went to another strange party and tried to kiss a gay guy.

Fear flickers through me as a different scenario plays itself in my mind. What if Jay hadn’t been gay? What if he hadn’t been a gentleman? I drank way too much and passed out for hours. Something could’ve happened to me. Something really bad.

More tears fall. I wipe them away. I take a deep breath and force myself to meet my own eyes in the mirror. Pure shame flashes back at me.

“You’re not this person,” I whisper to myself.

I’m still not certain who I am.

I just know it’s not this girl.

I jut out my chin, then march out of the bathroom and into Jay’s bedroom. I grab his phone, step back into the hall and call the only cab company whose number I have memorized. Unfortunately, it’s a tiny taxi service based in Darling, with only a couple drivers, so I’m told it’ll be at least twenty minutes before someone could get me.

“That’s fine,” I tell the dispatcher. I guess at this point, it doesn’t matter if I come home at 12:45 or 1:00 or 1:15 a.m., now does it?

I leave Jay’s house trying to make as little noise as possible. There are a few kids passed out on the couches in the living room, but nobody stirs at my footsteps. My head is still throbbing as I step outside into the cool night, but at least my stomach has settled. And my breath is minty fresh thanks to the mouthwash I swished in it from Jay’s bathroom.

“You sure you don’t want a ride?”

The entire street is so dead that I hear the girl’s voice carry even from several houses down. I jump in alarm and instinctively duck behind the row of hedges that separate Jay’s house from the one beside it.

“Nah, it’s okay,” says a muffled male voice. “I’d rather walk.”

I’m not sure what I’m afraid of. It’s obviously a few kids leaving the other party at Kav’s house, not some serial killer prowling the neighborhood for prey.

I peek out, but I can’t really make out the shadowy figures. They’re too far away. Then a car engine hums in the night, and two red streaks illuminate the darkness as a small hatchback reverses out of Greg Kavill’s driveway. A few seconds later, the car whizzes past the hedgerow.

Exhaling softly, I emerge from my silly hiding spot. The taxi is picking me up in front of Jay’s house. I decide to sit at the curb and wait, rather than loiter on the front porch. I threw myself at the poor guy more than once tonight—the least I could do is graciously get off his property.

A mortified groan slides out and I drop my face into my hands. How is this happening? How did this night turn to such shit?

Jeff left me. I got wasted. I tried to make out with someone.

I moan, but that small sound is not enough to release all the awful things I’m feeling. So I scream into my palms. “Argghhhhh!”


My head snaps up at the sound of his voice. “No,” I whisper, more to me than him. “Just go away, Chase. Please.”

“What are you doing out here? It’s almost one in the morning and there’s school tomorrow.”

“You go to school, too,” I snipe. “Why are you allowed to be out late and I’m not?”

“I can get by on no sleep. You, on the other hand, look like you’re about to pass out. Are you okay?”

I ignore him by burying my face in my hands again. I can’t deal with him at the moment. Nice, right? I lost my virginity to this guy and I can’t even look him in the eye. And the fact that he sounds legit concerned for me only makes it worse.

“Beth,” he says roughly. “Look at me.”

“No,” I mumble against my hands. “Just move along, Chase. Nothing to see here.”

“All right. Whatever.”

I hear footsteps.

My heart speeds up, because once he’s gone, I’m back to being alone out here so late at night. Not that I want him to stay or anything. I just...

I don’t know what I want.

The footsteps grow fainter, and I finally raise my head. He really is leaving. Just walking away. I stare at his black-clad back. He’s wearing a hoodie again. His jeans aren’t black, though. They’re blue, and so faded they look like they’ve been washed a thousand times before. His tall frame gets smaller the farther away he gets. I keep watching, because what else am I going to do? I still have so much time to kill before the cab comes.

When he reaches the end of the street, he halts at the same stop sign I raced toward earlier, when Jeff sped off like a total fucking asshole.

I narrow my eyes. Chase remains still for several moments. Then, very slowly, he turns around and starts walking back in my direction. My pulse speeds up.

By the time he’s in front of me again, my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest.

His blue eyes scan my face, and his voice is slightly hoarse as he asks, “Did anyone hurt you?”

I jerk my head no.

“Are you sure? Because it’s obvious you’ve been crying.” He drags both hands through his messy hair, trying to slick it away from his face. “Why the hell are you here, Beth? You’re not friends with Kav or Maria or their crowd. And you sure as shit aren’t friends with Tanner’s crew.”

“What’s wrong with Jay?” I demand, oddly defensive of a boy I hardly know. But he was nice to me tonight, and I don’t like the contempt in Chase’s voice. He has no right to condemn anyone.

“Nothing’s wrong with Jay. It’s his brother’s crew I’m talking about. Dave’s a drug dealer,” Chase says flatly. “But I assume you already knew that, since you were chilling at his place tonight.”

I didn’t meet a Dave, as far as I recall, and I’m suddenly glad Jay didn’t introduce us. I feel a bit faint, though, because the revelation that someone in that house deals drugs just confirms what I already knew—I might’ve gotten really hurt tonight if Jay hadn’t taken care of me.

“Well, nobody hurt me and I’m fine. So you can go away,” I tell Chase. “I’m waiting for a cab.”

He nods. But he doesn’t leave.

“Just...leave,” I spit out. “We don’t have anything to say to each other. You made it clear, okay?”

His tone is wary. “Made what clear?”

“That just because we had sex doesn’t mean there’s some kind of bond between us. You want nothing to do with me. I want nothing to do with you.” My eyes feel hot all of a sudden, stinging so badly my throat tightens.

“Do you want there to be a bond?” Now he sounds incredulous. “Because that’s just screwed up, Beth.”

Like water crashing through a broken dam, my tears pour out.

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