Chapter One

I'm driving the Mazda 3 my dad got me for my sixteenth birthday to my boyfriend Jared's house; my steady guy since the end of junior year. Once I reach his place, I check myself in my rearview mirror, making sure my lip gloss is still intact and my hair is the way it should be. I walk up to his front door, anticipating his arms around me, anticipating the feeling that comes when I'm in his arms. He's such a great guy. He's such a nice boyfriend and he totally cares about me.

Jared answers the door with a devilish grin strewn across his hunky face. I have often compared him to a teenaged version of Christian Bale. Total hottie. He puts his arms around me, pinches my butt and I follow him up to his room. Once in there, we sit on his bed.

"So, are we going to watch a movie, or what?" I ask him.

"Sure, let's just leave off where we started at school."

He starts kissing me aggressively, his fingers unbutton my top, and once his fingers try to wander inside, I force him to stop.

"No Jare," I say nudging his hand away and sitting up with better posture. An exasperated sigh comes out of his mouth, and then he stares at me without saying a word.

"I'm not ready for that," I simply state, re-buttoning up my long sleeved shirt. He gets up from the bed, and starts to run his fingers through his hair, pacing the room, and I just know he's getting ready for a confrontation. The first one this month.

"Why not Leila? We've been together a year."

"So? I'm not ready," I insist, not looking at his face. I know he's disappointed, and totally blue-balled right now, but I'm not caving in. I want my first time to be special, to be perfect, on the night of my wedding and although Jared treats me kindly, takes me on dates and I care deeply about him, I'm just not sure about going all the way with him. Jared and I have had this conversation at least three times before. I tell him that I love him but that I want to wait till I'm older, till I've matured a little. I'm just not ready. Simple as that.

"When will you be ready? I told you we could just mess around first," Jared states, sitting back next to me on his bed. I sit for awhile, not really wanting to answer him and focus on his room, which should be showcased in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine or something. His parents are more than rich, they're filthy rich and sophisticated and well known. My father was completely thrilled when I told him Jared was taking me to prom last year. He said, "Jared Wilkins, as in Richard Wilkins's son?" My father had meet Richard because my father was Richard's divorce attorney. Jared's mother Laurie wanted to reap all the benefits, such as two of their five homes, two of the cars, Jared, and of course, the dogs. They later reconciled. I guess when Richard wouldn't give those things up, Laurie had to find a way to keep them. By staying married to Richard.

"Jare, please understand."

"No, I'm sick of this. You tease me all the time."

"How?" I stand up and cross my arms over my chest, ready for a full-blown argument. He stands up too, his face flustered.

"Leila, I'm a guy. I have needs. If you don't fulfill them, someone else will. I have treated you like a damn princess, and any girl would be happy to be with me."

"Is that a threat?" I ask, my eyes are fierce with anger, and my head feels like it's on fire. I can't believe him!

"Yeah, it is!" Jared retorts. I just stand frozen, completely dumbfounded until I storm out of his room, down his long spiral staircase, out the front door until I finally reach my car. I curse under my breath as I drive to my best friend's house, as I will the tears to go away from my eyes. Stupid man. Dumb, horny man. When will I find a guy who doesn't just want sex? Who loves me for who I am? Regardless if I get naked or not?

I guess I knew this was coming a long time now. Jared is the hottest, most popular guy on campus, but it's not like I'm a nobody around school. I know just about everyone, and I was voted for homecoming court this last school year. Every girl does want Jared. I just can't see why now. He promised he wouldn't force me to do anything until I was ready. When I told him I may never be ready, he seemed okay with it. Now he's just like my other boyfriends. The ones that claimed to be studying, or at basketball practice or at work when they were really getting it on behind my back because I wouldn't be with them. I am totally against guys now. I don't need a boyfriend. I'll be fine without a man, thank you. I can get by this upcoming summer just hanging out with my friends, going to the movies without a guy texting me, asking me when the movie will be out because they need to see me and that two hours is just torture without my presence. Like they care about me anyhow.

I pull up to the curb opposite of Chad's house, slam my door in complete rage, and run up his stairs, his mother in the kitchen, completely unaware of the fact that I came in. They don't care if I just barge in. They say I'm family since I've been friends with Chad since kindergarten. Chad's bedroom door is opened, and he's sitting smack dab in front of his television, enthralled with his new Playstation 3, playing a car racing game of some sort. I never really got into video games, unless it's The Sims.

"Another one Chad."

"Another what, Leila?" Chad asks, not taking his eyes away from the TV screen.

"He dumped me. He said he could find someone else to fulfill his needs."

"What a donkey butt," Chad lets out. He had been trying not to cuss as much as he did in the last year. So far, his new favorite curse words are: Cockatoo, ding dong and his favorite; donkey butt. He pauses his game, removes himself from the floor and gives me a tight hug, and I bury my head into his chest as I softly cry.

"I thought he might have been the one."

"To have sex with?" Chad asks with a grossed out face when I pull away from him.

"No. The one I loved. Maybe it wasn't love after all. How do you know anyhow?" I ask him. Chad shrugs his shoulders. I shouldn't be asking Chad these questions, I should be asking the other female one third of the three musketeers as my dad calls us; Jodi Larson. Jodi would know what to say in a time like this. For some reason I instinctively drove to Chad's, not really thinking of Jodi. Oh, I remember, she has to baby-sit for her sister. She has the cutest little nephew who's only two years old. Jodi always reminds me of the fact that her parents were probably on glue when they created her, because her sister is twenty-nine and she's only eighteen. She said she had to have been a mistake, because her parents solely afflict their attention on Nikki. "Nikki this, and Nikki that. My parents don't love me, I could rob a bank and they wouldn't even flinch," Jodi always complains. I shift my attention back on Chad, who is staring at me while I'm silent.

"I want to remain a virgin until I'm in love. Why doesn't anybody understand that? I can't imagine just doing it without being in love."

"Leila, I think you should stop seeing guys altogether. You don't need them."

"Easy for you to say, you have a girlfriend."

"Had," Chad corrects me.

"Had?" I question him.

"We broke up. We'll state it as irreconcilable differences." Chad makes me laugh at his joke.

"That's better. No more tears, got it?" Chad demands. He pulls me into a big bear hug.

"Do you think I'll ever meet a guy who won't force me to do it?" I ask him in a babyish voice.

"Never. The guys at school all have a bet. You remember."

How could I forget? The memorable bet that the entire basketball team made when I was in cheer in ninth grade. News must have leaked from one of them that I was a virgin, because I had dated a basketball player freshman year. One of my cheer friends said she overheard them talking about me, saying that they all were going to try to succeed me because I was the hottest freshman who needed to be laid. Suddenly as I walked down the hallways of my school, guys would inappositely shout out, "Leila I wanna lay ya!" I was appalled. I mean, my parents just happened to find a name that rhymed with their absurd laying bet.

"Yeah, Leila, I wanna lay ya. I want to change my quote for the senior yearbook to that," I say with a laugh.

"I wouldn't say that too loud. They might take you seriously," Chad grins at me. He starts scratching his scalp under his unruly hair, which has grown far too long. I have urged him to cut it, telling him it looked so much better shorter.

"Chad, cut your hair!" I demand.

"Maybe for you," Chad says with a sly grin. He starts tickling me until I promise not to bug him about his overgrown hair anymore. His eyes light up when I break free from his grip. He's impressed I managed to get away. I throw a pillow at him and he throws it back.

"Oh, Hi Leila, honey, you staying for dinner?" Chad's mom enters his room. I look over to Chad for a confirmation. He nods his head.

"Yes, Mrs. Alden."

"Oh good. I'll set the table for one more," She replies and smiles wide at us before exiting Chad's doorway.

Mrs. Alden always thought of me as the daughter she never had, or so Chad has told me. He says she always wanted a little girl but ended up with three boys instead. Chad's twin brothers are both in college.

When I get home I immediately phone Jodi, telling her all about my situation. She's sympathetic, but tells me to move on.

"He was a jerk anyway. He took up too much of your time."

"Jodi, I thought he was nice."

"Well, lets forget about guys, and start looking forward to summer. I mean, it's like, seriously days away. We're going to have fun, and everything will be so cool. Just, don't worry about it."

I nod my head, though she can't see it over the phone.

"I agree. I won't. Thanks Jod." I hang up the phone, and anticipate the summer already.

Jodi and I got jobs at the local Big Lots early in the school year. It started out as a joke sort of. We didn't care where we worked as long as we worked together. I mean, we can hardly split classes let alone get jobs elsewhere. So, we got the jobs and started saving a lot of money. We both quit once prom neared because we wanted to enjoy the last month of our senior year.

I lay down on my bed, and think about how easy it was for Jared to dump me. I mean, could he have been more eager to get rid of me? I'm almost positive he'll have a new girl on his arm tomorrow at school. Some girl who will be all dreamy eyed and willing to jump into his bed because he's the senior jock that all the girls want. I sigh, and stuff a pillow under my head. I stare at some pictures I have on a corkboard beside my computer. There's this one of me and Jodi in bikinis in my backyard that Chad took. There's one of all three of us laughing when we were about ten years old. I pick it up and smile at it. I replace it, and then take all of the ones of me and Jared straight off the wall. I shred one in particular. This one where we're kissing. It makes me sick to even look at it right now.

I log onto my computer, where I chat with Chad about how mean guys are. I mean, I know he's a guy and all, but he knows what I've been through. If anything, me and Jodi have totally helped him. If he doesn't know how to be sensitive to a woman now, it will soon catch up to him. Chad asks me if I'm okay. Surprisingly, I am. I'm not too bent out of shape about it. I feel like I can be single for awhile. I need a break from boys.

I'm tossing and turning. I can't sleep. I start thinking about my virginity, and how it's become such a huge deal. At school, the boys had bets on me. I can't date a guy without worrying about it. My girlfriends all used to tell me to do it, just to get it over with. It's not like I'm saving it because I have to. No one ever told me I have to. I guess I've just always dreamt up some perfect guy in my head. Some guy that would mean a lot to me, someone I loved. I don't know anymore. I mean, I haven't fallen in love yet. What if I never do? Or what if it takes till I'm twenty-five? I start panicking and sit up in my bed. What if I die a virgin? What if I die tomorrow, you know, just some sort of freak accident, like I get hit by a bus or something, and I'm a virgin? I have to do it before that. I just have to. Maybe this will be the summer I lose it. I'll just lose it to some random guy to get rid of it. It will be done in an instant, and I won't worry about the fact that I'm not in love yet. Okay, so, he has to be someone that I've known for more than a day. I'll meet guys this summer. I'll go on dates, and choose which one will be the best for me. I've got to get rid of this virginity of mine.

The next day, I spring out of bed, and brush my teeth while listening to my recent purchases from the iTunes store. I pull my long hair into a ponytail, put my contacts in, and get dressed into some white shorts and a pink polo t-shirt. I skip down the stairs, and sit next to my dad as he drinks his coffee. I grab an apple, and start to nibble on it.

"Just one week of school left. Are you sad?" My dad asks me. I want to laugh sarcastically. I want to tell him high school was a waste of my time. All the boys I dated, who were all jerks, stole precious minutes of my life. The only thing that was fun was going to the movies with my musketeers, going to the beach bonfires, and of course the school dances. But now that it's almost over, it feels like none of the student body activities were important, like the dances and prep rallies. All those tests I had studied so hard for, all done and gone. Apart of the past.

"I'm not sad at all."

My dad frowns. He doesn't want me to get older. He doesn't want me to go to college and move out one day.

"Okay, I'm a little sad…" I correct myself. He smiles at me.

I say goodbye to my dad, and drive my car to school. The entire way, I think about how I'm going to lose my virginity. I mean, I'm moving on from high school. I'm getting older, much more mature. It's time to think about what kind of guy I want to be with. I know it will be someone older, someone sophisticated with a sense of humor. Maybe we could fall in love and…wait, I told myself I just wanted to lose it and now I'm confusing it with love again. I just need to find an attractive man that I'm more than mildly fond of, and then it will be done. Maybe Jodi can help me find that guy.

As I walk up to Chad at his locker, with Jodi already alongside him, I decide against telling them my plan just yet. Chad will probably tell me to wait, and Jodi, well Jodi might be interested. But until I feel like I really want to go through with it, I'm just going to wait it out. I mean, my virginity is still sacred to me. I have to be certain about this whole thing.

After school lets out, Chad and Jodi and I drive in Chad's truck to the mall. Jodi and I pick up some cute items. An Arden B. top for her, a new Coach purse for me. My dad gives me an allowance. Since I'm his only child and he has a lot of money, he buys me almost whatever I want. I'm not too spoiled, but spoiled enough to the point where if I really want something, he might get it for me. I get a two hundred dollar a week allowance, which isn't much compared to some kids I know. But I'm grateful that I even have an allowance, and that my Dad makes sure I have money for food when I go out, gas money, stuff like that.

When we're in line for Chinese food, Jodi wants to tell us this new exciting thing that happened to her. Something that we all would like.

"What?" I ask in anticipation. Chad is next in line. He orders his food and periodically looks back at Jodi for her story.

"Well…my aunt and uncle's place in Vegas is free for two weeks. Two weeks!" Jodi exclaims. Chad and I look at one another.

"Does that mean anything to us?" I ask slowly.

"They're letting me and a friend stay there until they get back from Hawaii. They have a boat and we can go to Lake Mead. My older cousin might be around but, they said he has his own place."

"And?" I ask excitedly.

"And, my aunt said that we can stay there for a bit. You know, watch their dogs for them. I talked my mom into it."

"We get to go to Vegas alone?" I ask with wide eyes.

"Sweet!" Chad shouts.

"Wait, there's more…there's only one exception," Jodi says. I knew there would be one problem, I mean, nothing usually goes all that great for me.

"We can't have parties at the house, and no boys…so…" Jodi looks at Chad with sorry eyes.

"That's two exceptions!" Chad says.

"Well, I didn't make the rules. I'm sorry," Jodi says biting her lip.

"Well, maybe if you tell them how close we all are, and that you've known Chad forever-" I start.

"Hey, I can take a hint. I'm not wanted," Chad huffs.

"No, Leila's right. I'll call my aunt, or have my mom talk to her," Jodi says as she nudges Chad arm to get him to lighten up.

When I get home, I'm so excited about the trip. I mean, we get to stay at their house for free and our only duty is to take care of their dogs. I am bummed that Chad may not be able to go, so I hope that Jodi works it all out. The only thing is- and I just now think about it when my dad is making cheeseburgers in the kitchen- that my dad may not go for it. I mean, it's in the summer, and I'm eighteen and free to do what I want, but I'm still living under my dad's roof.

In case you are wondering, yes, my mother is gone. She passed away when I was seven. It was an incredibly hard time on me. My mom was walking across the street when she was taking a walk one day and a driving too fast teenager hit her. He hit her because he didn't see her, though she had the right of way and the kid was running a red light. I never wanted to leave my room for days. The only support came from my friends, of course Chad and Jodi. Jodi baked me brownies with her easy bake oven, and Chad was the first one to drag me out of my house that summer. He was the only one who could get me back to riding bikes with him, to climb trees with him again. Some days I still wake up from a bad dream. I'm seven years old and my mom is alive again, but I'm dead and I can't see her. I can't ever hold her again, or hear her laugh or see her smile at me when she reads to me. I was too little when she died. It was tough going to school as every kid had their mother at girl scout meetings, or ballet. My dad was really, truly there for me, always telling me how much he loved me and that just because mom was gone, didn't mean she wasn't looking down on me. My dad remarried once when I was twelve. Her name was Holly and she was only twenty-eight and my dad was forty at the time. Needless to say, it only worked out for a year because my dad didn't like the way she treated me differently compared to her son. My dad has always had my back.

When I'm taking a bite out of a cheeseburger my dad made, I wait until the food is fully swallowed before I start up a chat about this summer. My dad is drinking an iced tea, and he's playing The Beatles as we sit out on the patio. The hot sun is burning down on my skin, and I nervously wipe the sweat away from my forehead with a fresh napkin. Since we'd be gone on fourth of July week, I wonder if my dad will use that as an excuse to make me stay. But my dad has a bunch of buddies he plays poker with. Maybe he'll do that.

"Dad?" I pick some corn on the cob out of my teeth.

"Yes Lei?"

"I have a question. Before you get all weird on me, telling me I'm young and stuff, well…" I tell him all that Jodi told me. Except when my dad is unsure about two eighteen year olds being alone in a distant city, I tell him that Chad will be there. Even if I don't know for sure if he can go, I push the male protective security from Chad thing. My dad's face muscles relax and he gives me a small grin.

"Well, your first trip as an adult. It should be fun."

"What?" I exclaim, about to jump out of my chair.

"Of course you can go. Have fun, but don't be irresponsible. Leila, you are still only eighteen. There are weirdoes in the city. Make sure when you go somewhere you have Chad around, or I'll get you some pepper spray." I laugh and then give him a hug as he's still glued to his chair.

"I'll let Jodi know!" I shout out as I'm about to go into the house and run up to my room, but dad makes me sit down and finish eating with him.

"My dad is cool. I officially get to go!" I shout into the phone. Jodi laughs, and we both scream for joy.

"Chad can go now. My mom talked to my aunt. He's stoked."

"Well, it should be awesome. I already want to start packing!" I say.

"Me too!" Jodi laughs exuberantly.

We leave on July 1st and don't return home until July 15th. Jodi tells me that working all that time at Big Lots helped her save some money, and she's looking forward to using it on this trip. Another thing we're looking forward to using; our fake ids. My dad doesn't know I have one, and it would probably break his heart if he did. But the truth is, I don't use it much. Chad uses his to buy booze once and awhile, and that's pretty much it. In Vegas, we get to go to clubs if we want. We can gamble, though I'd rather spend my time looking for the man who will be the lucky one to take away my virginity. If only the boys at school knew I was willing now.