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At the end of each summer, there’s always the small handful of kids that can’t wait to get back to school. And as much as I hate to admit it, I am one of those kids. You’d never guess it, though. Not to brag or anything, but I can play the role of Emotionally Tortured Teenager Who Reluctantly Serenades Summer Away By Attending Cooper Bishop’s Raging Party And Drinking Life Away, pretty darn well. Especially the second part.
The room is spinning by the time I finish my fifth shot. It’s not a lie that I am the infamous Queen of Lightweights. The warm liquid is numbing as it slinks down my throat, settling in my stomach and lighting the inside of my body on fire, my blood heatedly coursing through my veins. The walls seem to be shrinking in on me, and the scene of Cooper’s living room is bathed in a slurred, glowing gold.
I look up at my best friend, Chaise, who is sitting on the couch next to me and working on her third beer. She’s talking animatedly with the captain of the football team, James Roth, seated on the other side of her. Word on the street is that James has had his eye on Chaise for a week or two now, ever since they bumped into each other at the beach. Which isn’t that hard to believe, considering Chaise is a Greek goddess type, what with her long golden hair, deep bronze tan, and perfect B-cups.
When James stands and pulls Chaise up with him, I’m not surprised. I already know that he’s planning on taking her to the bedroom, and I already know that Chaise will gladly comply with his requests. Not only because she’s more than just a little buzzed, but because Chaise has no problem with doing whatever with whomever. Which leaves me sitting alone on a cracked leather couch that smells like cat pee.
Most of the kids my age have done It. And don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I mean, it is the twenty-first century and we are going into our junior year, after all. But not me. No, I can’t even say the real term, much less do it.
Sure, I’ve kissed boys.
Okay, one boy.
But that was last summer. And everything about last summer was completely and horribly wrong.
“Sable.” I know who it is before I see his face; that voice. I look down at my lap, because something about him makes me want to run away screaming at the top of my lungs. Only I can’t do that, mainly because after that last swig, I’m not even sure if I’m capable of standing up.
I feel the couch flex under his weight as he situates himself next to me, taking Chaise’s place. I fix my eyes on my pale, smooth thighs. It’s humanely impossible for me to acquire a tan. Chaise made me wear these jean shorts of hers, the ones that barely cover my butt, and I suddenly feel myself squirming, wishing for anything to cover my bare, exposed skin. The frayed denim shorts are more like decorative underwear.
“Sable,” he says again, in that annoying singsongy drawl that he does. I want to tell him I hate it. “Why can’t you even look at me?”
He knows the answer to that question; he just wants to make me say it out loud. I won’t give him the satisfaction. I whip my head around, staring him directly in the eyes, my heart beating so loudly against my chest that I’m sure he can hear it, even above the thumping of the music.
“Hello, River.” My words sound shrill even to me, and his face splits into a grin, thrilled with the knowledge that I remember it all. And that I can’t forget it.
He doesn’t look any different from last summer. His dark hair is shaggy and unbrushed, the waves falling into his eyes the slightest bit, but not enough to muffle their electric-turquoise coloring. He’s wearing a fitted white T-shirt that shows off his creamy skin, while also highlighting his defined chest and arms. Two small, perfect dimples reveal themselves on each of his cheeks, mocking me.
How quickly I let him take over me.
Swallowing, I nervously push a wavy chunk of hair out of my eyes, itching to do something with my hands. Something other than press them against his chest, move them along his arms, feel his skin against my own.
“How was your summer?” River asks, and it’s the question I’ve been dreading.
Horrible. Dreadful. Unbearable. All I could think about was how much it sucked compared to the one before.
“Great,” I say, because I could never tell him the truth. “How about yours?”
A sparkle glimmers in his eye before he’s able to blink it away quickly. “Any hot hookups for you, S?”
An icy feeling starts to sliver throughout my veins, sending chills throughout my body. I can’t tell him that he’s been my only, that he’ll probably always be my only. That I spent all summer lying around, staring up at my ceiling, knowing that he was off making love with some European girl on the beaches of Greece. My pause is his answer, though; I don’t have to say anything. He already knows.
River nods slowly, as if we have come to an agreement. “Europe was boring,” he sighs, shrugging. Sometimes, it was like he had X-ray vision into my mind. “I just played video games in my uncle’s villa the whole entire two months.”
“This place wasn’t much better,” I lament, running a hand through my grown-out bangs. “I would’ve killed to be in Europe.”
He smirks, squinting his eyes at me playfully. “I would’ve killed to have you in Europe with me.” I feel like I’m about to throw-up. “I think your eyes got greener since I last saw you.”
My jaw clenches, an I scoot the smallest millimeter away from him. This is what should be known as The Danger Zone. A few more words, and I might be right back in last summer. And I promised I would never, ever again.
“I haven’t noticed it,” I answer, internally cursing Chaise for abandoning me. I rub my palms over my thighs; it suddenly just became ten degrees colder in here.
I see River’s eyes flicker to my legs, then run length wise up and down my entire body. I feel as if I’m crumbling from the inside out, caving in on myself.
“I should go.” My words sound empty and hollow, hanging between us like a wimpy plastic shield in the middle of a sword fight. Before I’m able to stand up, River removes himself from the couch, towering over me.
“Here,” he says, taking a pen out of his pocket and motioning for my hand. Wordlessly, I lift it upwards to him, hating myself all the while. His hands are warm against my skin as his hand moves across my arm swiftly. In a few seconds, the pen is capped and my hand is back at my side, with his number scribbled across it. “Just in case you deleted me from your contacts,” he explains, smirking a bit. “But you probably have it memorized anyways, huh?”
I’m not given a chance to respond as he weaves his way back through the crowd, pen still in fist, not one glance back over his shoulder. He’s too good at that mind-reading thing.