Home > One Small Thing(4)

One Small Thing(4)
Author: Erin Watt

“You aren’t holding me down,” I point out. “Are you telling me to leave?”

“No. I don’t want that.” He exhales again and his perfect body is momentarily framed by the thin cotton of his T-shirt.

Gosh, he’s gorgeous.

“It’s beautiful out here, isn’t it?”

I glance up at the night sky and then at Chase’s upturned face. It’s so cloudy you can barely make out the moon, let alone the stars. “I guess?” He’s beautiful. The sky? Not so much.

He chuckles to himself. “It could be raining buckets and I’d be happy.”

“Me, too.” Because I’m with you, I think. I haven’t felt this at peace with myself for weeks, maybe months. The fight with my mom seems like a long-ago bad memory.

His hand is pressed against the ground between us. I edge mine closer to his until our pinkies touch.

“Your fingers are long.”

He turns his head away from the sky to peer at our fingers. “Maybe yours are really short.”

“I have normal-sized hands.”

“Let’s see.” He slides his hand over mine and my fingers disappear under his.

My heart begins to beat wildly and my mouth goes dry. Body parts start tingling in places I didn’t know could tingle.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I blurt out.

His lips curve into that gorgeous smile of his. “Yeah. I think so. You okay with that?”

I nod.

“It’s been a long time for me,” he admits.

His honesty catches me off guard. “Me, too.”

“Good.” He tucks my hair behind my ear. He moves closer. “Then we can mess up together. Tell me if I do something wrong.”

He palms my cheek, strokes it gently. Ever so slowly, his lips meet mine.

3

Chase rolls onto his side. He reaches for something on the nightstand of the bedroom we wound up in. I hear the hiss of a lighter. The scent of smoke soon fills my nostrils as I lie there, staring at the ceiling. Taking a deep drag, he shifts onto his back and does the same. The crisp cotton sheet covers his lower body. His chest is bare.

Me, I threw my clothes on the moment it was over. Second thoughts are chased by third thoughts chased by so many thoughts that I’m paralyzed. What do I do now?

What have I done, period? My entire body is hot with embarrassment and my heart is pounding harder than the bass line that’s still shaking the house.

Chase takes another drag on his cigarette. He’s acting like what we just did was no big deal. But maybe it’s not to him. It probably isn’t. He probably has sex with hundreds of girls at parties.

I didn’t tell him I was a virgin.

I—

“I have to go,” I blurt out, shooting to my feet.

He doesn’t say a word. Doesn’t meet my gaze. I’m glad, because I don’t particularly want him to see the shame swimming in my eyes.

It’s not until I’m about to turn the doorknob that he speaks.

“Where’s your phone?”

My head swivels toward him, and, finally, our gazes collide. His expression reveals nothing. His chest still has a slight sheen of sweat on it from... I tear my eyes away.

“It’s in my purse,” I mumble. “Why?”

“Take it out.”

I’m helpless to say no when it comes to this guy. Face burning, I fish my phone out of my bag and wait.

He rattles off a number.

I stare at him, still feeling dazed. And my body, despite being sore, is responding to the sight of his abs.

“Put that number in your phone.” His voice is rough. “Text me when you get back to your friend’s place so I know you made it back okay.”

I keep staring.

“Beth,” he prompts, and I finally manage to find my voice.

“Give me the number again,” I whisper.

He repeats the digits and I dutifully type them into my phone.

“And, yeah, call me if you ever need me,” he says gruffly.

I nod, but I think we both know that aside from the one text I’ll send from Scarlett’s, I will never, ever, ever use his number again.

4

Tuesday is the first day of school. The first day of my last year, and I should be rejoicing. One year is all I have left under this roof. One year until I’m in college, the college I want to attend, free from my parents’ constant, watchful control.

Their eyes are pinned on me right now. They have questions. I can feel a heaviness in the air. Mom’s disappointment mixed with Dad’s frustration and resentment have formed a black thundercloud that clings to the ceiling and walls like smoke after a pan fire.

I try to act normally, as if I didn’t do things last night I sorely regret. Things I’ve lied about to Scarlett, to my parents, to myself. Since I opened my eyes this morning, I’ve been forcing myself not to think about Chase. But it’s so hard not to. And when the thoughts of him do surface, I feel like sobbing.

I had sex for the first time yesterday. I wanted to, and I enjoyed it. I really did—at the time. But it didn’t take very long for the glow to fade. For the thrill of doing something new and exciting and rebellious to be replaced with bone-deep shame.

My first time was with a stranger. It was a one-night stand.

What the hell do I do with that? I can’t even begin to process it, and I wish my parents would stop staring at me. I’m afraid if they stare long enough, they’ll be able to read my thoughts.

“Did you have a nice time at Scarlett’s?” Mom asks, breaking the silence.

The sound of her voice brings a phantom pain to my cheek. She hit me yesterday. She’s acting like she doesn’t remember. Or maybe she’s just trying to forget. Or hoping I’ll forget. Fat chance.

“Lizzie?” she prompts. “Did you have a nice time?”

“Uh-huh.” I push the sautéed zucchini to the edge of my plate. Scarlett had been sleeping when I crawled into her bed. When morning came, I barely spoke a word to her. She kept pumping me for details about the party, but I could only manage vague answers. I don’t want Scarlett to know that I gave it up to some hot stranger at some random party. It’s way too embarrassing.

“What did you do?”

My fork halts its trek to the side, a pale green half-moon stuck on one of the tines. This type of question is asked only when your parents are suspicious and want to catch you in a lie. The less said in times like these, the better. “Stuff.”

I force my hand to move, to pretend like my heart rate hasn’t picked up and my body isn’t tense with fear.

“Like what?” Mom’s tone is light, but probing.

“Same stuff we always do.”

There are several beats of silence during which I realize that they know something and are waiting for a confession. I keep my eyes pinned to my plate.

Next up for separation are the mushrooms. I hate those. I always have and yet Mom continues to cook with them.

Mushrooms were Rachel’s favorite.

There’s a shuffling of papers. White appears at the corner of my eye. I don’t want to look but I can’t help it.

“Do you know what this is?” It’s Dad’s turn to question me now.

This is a good cop/bad cop routine that they do. Mom pretends concern and when I don’t show any remorse, Dad steps in with his stern voice and even sterner commands.

“No.” That’s honest, at least.

“It’s a printout of your text messages.”

“What?” Jaw dropping, I grab the sheaf of papers. My eyes skim down the page in total disbelief. Either I’m hallucinating, or I’m actually reading a transcript of the texts I exchanged with Scar when I was leaving the party last night.

217-555-2956: How’s the party? U OK?

217-555-5298: I’m fine. Party’s lit. omw back now. cabbing it.

217-555-5298: Prnts call?

217-555-2956: No

217-555-5298: kk cover 4 me if they do

217-555-5298: Made it back, safe and sound.

My stomach sinks. That last one was the message I sent Chase. I almost cry with gratitude that I didn’t say anything more damning.

I flip backward and see more messages.

217-555-2956: party 2nite?

217-555-5298: yessss

217-555-2956: what abt prnts?

217-555-5298: Ill tell them have 2 wrk

Fear, anger and frustration spin around in my head. I don’t even know what to say. And in the back of my mind, all I can think is Thank God. Thank God I didn’t text Scarlett about Chase and confess to having sex for the first time. Thank God I didn’t message Chase about what happened between us. The mere thought of my parents finding out about it, reading it firsthand on some text message, makes me nauseous.

“I can’t believe you’re spying on me!” I shout, slamming the papers onto the table. Unwelcome tears prick the corners of my eyes. “You don’t have any right to read my text messages!”

“I pay for that phone of yours,” Dad thunders.

“Then I’ll pay for it myself!” I jump out of my chair and push away from the table.

Dad grabs my wrist. “Sit down. We aren’t done.”

The look in his eye says that I better sit or he’ll make me. He never used to be this hard, this strict. Before Rachel died, he was the fun dad. He told the cheesiest jokes because he liked hearing us groan and cringe at them. Now I don’t think he even remembers how to smile.

I gulp, try to find my bravado, but come up empty. I sit.

“It’s not your actions that disappoint us,” Mom says, “but your lying. We simply can’t trust you.”

“Which is why your car is being taken away,” Dad adds.

“My car?” I gape at them. My car is one of the single instances of freedom I have. They gave me Mom’s old hatchback the second I got my learner’s permit. I would’ve been fine taking the bus or walking, but my parents felt I’d be safer behind the wheel of a car than on foot at crosswalks or bus stops.

Rachel was on foot when she was killed after all. Apparently that means I can’t walk within five steps of a motor vehicle ever again.

   
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