Chapter One: The Handler Boys of Toupanche Parish
I wasn't an idiot. I wasn't one of those girls, you know the kind, the ones that let some beautiful boy run all over them. Just because they muttered a few pretty words, didn't mean I was jello in my shoes. I wasn't like that. I wasn't so stupid as to think he really loved me either, not really anyway. I wanted to believe that he did. I prayed sometimes that he would eventually. But when it all came down to it, all truth, no bullshit blocking my cloudy gray eyes, he cared for me, but not enough to call it love.
Before that day, I hadn't really thought too much about it. I had kissed him when I felt like kissing. I'd laughed at his stupid jokes, and took up for him when everyone else told me he was bad news. But on that particular Friday afternoon, I realized that he didn't care for me and I had been wasting precious time giving a shit about him.
When I actually admitted this to myself, I realized that I actually hated him. I hated him with the passion lost on most people. This rage I was feeling, this shaking ardor, was of the old movie star variety. The kind that must've convinced most of the beautiful old starlets that it was fine to scream into the faces of those who offended you, be ravaged by those sexy enough to warrant it, and of course, slap the hell out of someone who did you wrong. And I was feeling just that, the undeniable urge to do exactly what I was feeling and nothing else. I tell you what, it's a scary feeling to not care about anything.
It was something to be scared of, mainly because of what I was feeling. When he had finished talking, and the world came slamming back into my ears, I was shocked to find I was in a state of complete rage. I wanted to slap him and gave into it that morning. For the first time in my twenty years on earth and I felt it, the sting of flesh against flesh. He had looked shocked when it happened, not daring to reach up and hold his cheek like he wanted to. And I know he wanted to, his hands practically shook with desire. He stared at me with wide, disbelieving eyes, his mouth slamming shut. A rosy splotch of palm shaped color formed along his jaw. I was too riled up to grin, too shocked to say anything at all.
He sputtered a few nonsensical words, before leaving. He ran away, barricading himself in his new car, speeding off down the old road, nothing but a cloud of dust, and a stinging palm, to remind me of what had just happened.
That was the day I broke up with him and as far as I was concerned it was one of the best days of my life, the best decision I'd ever made. At least that's what I tried to convince myself of, taking a few steps toward the bus stop where he'd left me that morning. My body was still thrumming with anger, my hands a jittery mess of nerves that wouldn't lay still at my sides. I wiped my moist palms off on my jean shorts, growing annoyed at the sweat now dripped down my back, tickling my skin. Taking a seat on the old bench, I leant over, resting my elbows on my knees, and tried my best to start breathing normal.
The calm rush of nothing didn't last long, seeing as how the next realization hit me like a ton of concrete slabs. There was no bus coming today. I lived in the middle of nowhere Louisiana and there would be no easy ride home. I spit curse words out like venom, standing up, and allowing my fingers to dig into my hips. I didn't think I could control my rage much longer. The need to slap someone was, once again, shaking in my finger tips. Too bad the bastard was gone, I could get a few more in. I shook my head, biting my lips hard against one another, and looking down at the dusty road under my feet. There was a bright side, I commented mentally. I needed to calm down before seeing my mom. She'd have something to say, she always did, especially when it came to Dustin. It was at least four miles east to get home, plenty of time to sober up emotionally and think of a good story, one that didn't end with her sighing and adding on a cocky, "I told you so."
Taking my first few steps toward home, I pulled my hair off my neck, fanning the now exposed skin. There was no cool air blowing in, nothing but a stifling sort of humidity that made your lungs feel as if they were filled with mud and sweat. I wheezed, ignoring the habit of reaching for my inhaler. My fingers were shaking still and for a moment I stopped walking and closed my eyes. I prayed for God to let it start raining, for it to pour down on me and hide the tears I was fighting. I would not cry while the sun was out and the sun was most definitely still out.
In a moments time, I regressed back to the mornings events. It made my stomach turn, the thought of it all. I had known something was off, staring into the blue eyes of Dustin Mckenzie and noticing for the first time who he really was and regretting that I was the one with him. He wasn't as tall as I would hope my dream guy to be, but I'd pushed that under all the supposed good things about him early on. He was around my height, an unimpressive 5'5 with bight blue eyes and naturally pale skin. The blonde hair atop his head made him seem older than he actually was sometimes, cropped short and never out of place. He smiled a lot, laughed rarely, and kept a constant hold on my heart. He had made me laugh, which is what first drew me to him four years before. I was in love with him and couldn't even start to deny it. Too bad the whole thing was one sided.
But at the exact moment of our breaking up, I thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea loving someone the way I did him. We weren't joined at the hip like most couples, but I did put an excessive amount of trust in him. If he was late, it must be for a reason. If he forgot to call, he must have fallen asleep. Looking at him then, it all piled up into this massive hill of idiotic lies and naive school girl crushes turned into something hideously sad and down right pathetic. If I knew he didn't love me, and I knew that plenty well, then why did it hurt so bad to have him say it out loud?
I sighed, even just remembering his tone. Anyone could see that I wasn't handling the situation good, the way I kept shifting from one foot to the other. I knew something was wrong before he uttered a word.
"Bailey," he started, bringing a cigarette to his lips and lighting the end of it. I crossed my arms over my chest, impatiently. "I'm just thinking maybe we should call it off."
"Call what off?" I felt my blood boil in my veins. I brought my arm in front of me, scratching my elbow out of nervous habit. A mosquito buzzed by his head, he waved it away.
"It just ain't there no more," he inhaled.
"That doesn't even make sense.'" I struggled to keep my voice down, rolling my eyes at his double negative.. "Why don't you just spit it out so we can do what we gotta do, Dustin."
"Fine then." He threw the burning cigarette on the ground. In mock aggression he stubbed the burning end with his toe. "The sex ain't any good, darlin." He stated plainly, holding his arms out as if I had just caught him in a guilty act, his shoulders nearly reaching his ears in an exaggerated show of his doing no wrong. "You wanted honesty, baby. And there you go. You can't fuck worth a shit. It's like screwing a damn doll sometimes." He smiled wide, cutting me to the bone. I flenched, my eyes widening and my heart pounding in my chest.
"You fucking bast-" I started, teeth clenched. I hadn't meant to, but the tears were already stinging my eyes. "We did it... last night. What the hell was-"
I had been trying, to refer to the way he had supposedly had sex with me the night before. My heart clenched. The boy had begged for two years to have sex and for the last two we'd been doing it at least once a week. The fact that he'd been doing what he did for two years and not complained didn't matter then. The way he looked when he said it, that blonde hair shining, those teeth looking slightly yellow from all the smoking, that's what mattered. It would stick with me for a while and I knew that. I would even remember his smell. Months later the thick scent of pine trees and nicotine would trigger the memory.
"Well hell, Bailey. How the hell do you expect me to be responsible for my actions when I'm drunk off my ass. Even you can get me going after eight beers."
"Fuck you," I hissed, a tear betraying me terribly by sliding down my face.
"Don't cry," he groaned, giving an annoyed stump before doing a full circle and reaching out to take my shoulders. "I'm not saying it was bad all the time, Bails. It's just not as good as it could be. I didn't want to say it like this but you just pushed me into it."
"And how would you know how good it could be, Dustin?" I asked suspiciously, my tears ceasing for a moment while my brain ran a thousand miles a minute. "You were supposedly just as inexperienced as I was..."
"Well..." he started, biting his lip in thought. He was considering lying, I could see that easily. I knew him that much.
"Couldn't really expect me to stay a hundred percent faithful all the time, now could ya, what with you running off all the times you did?" He grinned, trying to charm his way back in. I pulled away from him, disgusted. "You were gone for a month on that trip of yours, not to mention the summer you spent at that camp. It didn't mean shit, baby. Not that it matters much now either way."
"UGH!" I screamed, reaching to grab fistfuls of his hair, before stepping back and letting my hands clench in fists at my side instead.
"I want us to be friends though," he stated so casually I felt my eye twitch. "No use letting something as stupid as this get in the way of all our getting to know each other. It was four years..."
"You're just a lying piece of horse shit," I spat. "You're only saying this cause you don't want to get the shit beat out of you by my friends."
"Your friends better not touch me, or the whole town will know what a little bore you are."
Thats when I slapped him, so hard I felt it all the way up my arm.
I hadn't cried yet, my head swinging back and forth as I fought to keep my hair from sticking to my sweaty forehead. It wasn't going to rain, the sky was as cloudless as it had been all summer. Just when I thought I might pass out from a heatstroke I heard the sound of a truck approaching. Whipping around, I made shade for my eyes under my hand, and watched the old piece of junk truck that my best friends drove, make its way up the cracked pavement. They were brothers, separated by a year a four months. Jared was the oldest, with dark mischievous eyes and cropped brown hair. He was driving, I noticed, as they pulled up beside me, both grinning like mad at my predicament of walking down an old country road.
They had no idea.
Jordan, the youngest at twenty, leant out the passenger window, his muscled arm not bothered by the scorching metal. He wasn't wearing a shirt, his dirty blonde hair plastered to his forehead, on account of their lack of air-conditioner. He smiled at me as usual, looking me once over before, climbing out the truck and pushing me inside. I sat comfortably between them, my arms sticking to theirs with the heat. We had yet to talk. I almost hoped it would stay that way.
"What you doing out here without your car?" Jared eyed me suspiciously.
"I rode out here with Dustin," I mumbled, acting disinterested, pressing my palms to the balls of my knees.
"And where the fuck is he then?" He asked accusingly.
"Don't know, don't care," I reached forward to mess with the radio. The knob popped off in my hand. I pressed it back on, giving up on finding a station, quicker than I'd thought to find one at all.
"Finally broke it off huh?" Jordan asked, giving me a quick glance. I nodded, clearing my throat in hopes to also rid myself of the tears.
"Yep," I finally replied, after minutes of fighting with my own voice.
"Bout time," Jordan nudged me.
"You broke up with him?" Jared asked, no humor in his voice, watching me instead of the road.
"No," came my quiet reply. It wasn't like me to be so soft spoken. I wasn't this person. I noticed the way Jared tensed, the way Jordan turned to look at me. He was gaging my expression, wondering if I would cry this time. It had been a while since I let tears flow, mostly because my life had felt right for the last few years.
The air smelled like their old truck, a mixture of plastic, faded cologne, and dry sweat. The seats were slick and the air stifling. I needed cool air, something icy to drink. It was two miles more before they spoke. Jordan had quit staring, turning to watch out his window, while I played with my knees, pinching them together under my fingers and not daring to move. Jared kept one hand on the steering wheel while the other arm propped up on the doorframe. He looked cool. They both did. They always looked so cool.
"He cheated on me," I whispered, seeing the familiar place we grew up come into view. My house was a good two minutes away, if he drove right. I wondered if they'd bring me somewhere else, possibly to get a cold coke from down the road. I hoped they'd do it without me asking. "He told me that he cheated on me when I went on that trip a few weeks back and then when I went to camp." I finished lamely. Strangely enough I didn't feel like crying. It felt more like I was musing over something confusing than anything else. I was confused on how I didn't figure it out, confused on how he had gotten away with it multiple times, confused about how not sad I felt all of a sudden. We lived in a small town, everyone knew everything. It didn't add up.
"I'm gonna beat the shit out of that little shit," Jared's jaw clenched tight. I shook my head no, calmly telling him not to. "Who the hell with?" He asked, nearly swerving off the road.
"Don't know." I sighed.
"I'm gonna beat the shit out of him," he repeated. "I told you not to go fucking around with him, Bailey. I told you to stay the hell away from him."
"I'd been dating him for four years, Jared." I spoke quiet. "I thought you were wrong."
"Like hell I'm wrong. I'm never wrong," he grunted.
"I wanted you to be wrong then." I felt my voice quake with tears. Jared seemed to notice, eyes going all soft and sad.
"Bails, I'm-" He started fumbling with his words. He'd never been able to watch me cry. He'd always make an excuse to run off or change the subject. It was usually enough to make me laugh, not this time.
"No, No," I shrugged, smiling softly at Jordan who took my hand in his. "I'm fine." I figured they'd react this way. Jared was the badass, always ready for a fight, always ready to defend his friends honor. His eyes nearly grew red when he got bad news and he shook until he had to punch something. Jordan, was the complete opposite, soft and sweet in times of trouble. He would give you hugs and distract you. They worked well together. I was always flattered when Jared threatened to hurt people for me, usually it being on a lesser scale than the hurt I'd experienced then. I usually would laugh until he calmed down, shaking my head and talking to Jordan about hotheaded his brother was. And then Jordan would give me hugs and compliment me until I couldn't resist feeling better. I loved them for this.
"What else did he say?" I thought carefully over my meeting with Dustin. They weren't at all pleasant memories. I thought about the color of his hair, the smell of cigarette smoke, the way his lips curved into a grin after he'd destroyed my life. I leant more toward Jordan, my shoulder overlapping against his on the old plastic seats. "Bailey, what the hell did he say?" I leant over and let my head rest against Jordan's shoulder, breathing deep. I would put off telling Jared everything until I couldn't anymore. Otherwise I'd be dealing with a very bloody Dustin come later.
They brought me down the road to get a coke, just like I knew they would. The air was no less forgiving outside the store, located exactly five miles past our small subdivision. It was a tiny building, covered in dust and chipped paint, sitting atop a large messy square of gravel and dirt. Outside the actual building sat one ancient gas pump, that was a terror to figure out, and above the door in a curly red paint stated Porgies Gas and Bait. I used the back of my hand to wipe my forehead, following behind my boys into the store. Porgie greeted us with a gap toothed smile, tipping his hat at me while asking the boys politely what they needed. While they talked about normal things, such as and watermelon growth and the undeniable heat wave we'd been experiencing, I slunk toward the back to stand in front of cooler. I opened the tiny glass cage, breathing in the moderately cool air filtering around the sodas. They were all glistening with condensation. "Hey," Jordan stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders. He laughed at the way my body jumped.
"Wonderin' where you slipped off to," he smirked, reaching over my head to grab his favorite soda. I laughed awkwardly, finding the heat stifling. I sighed, turning and taking my first real look at him in hours. Jordan was a heartthrob, to say the least. His eyes were a soft blue and that smile he gave could make anyone melt. He rarely wore a shirt, but neither did Jared. They claimed they didn't need it, working outside most of the day and playfully acting appalled at the thought of a farmers tan. But they were both drool worthy in their own ways. They were the most sought after boys in town. "So what's this all about now, babe?" He asked, crossing his arms over her chest and looking down at me seriously. I made a face, wiggling my body in an awkward manner before leaning against the cool glass. "What'd the jackass say?"
"He said a lot of things," I whispered, leaning close to make sure no one else heard. Jordan nodded, his head moving forward with the promise of a good secret. My cheeks blanched at the memory, my fingers moving up to grab the metal handle of the cooler for stability. I had to look away and I did, studying my sneaker covered feet. I could still hear Jared's deep voice coming from the front of the store. They had moved away from the weather and had started speaking about church, the Sunday before. I pushed my hair back from head, the curls I was sure were sticking up in crazy directions. "Well you know, Jordan. We had..."
Jordan looked confused, his eyebrows knotting together low on his forehead. His eyes squinted and his lips puckered in thought. I groaned inwardly, my heart pounding in my chest. "You had what, Bailey?" He asked quietly. I thought maybe he was teasing. That's why I paused, watching him closely, waiting for the grin. But it never came so I took a deep breath and came forward.
"We... you know." I held my hands up, open palmed, as if that were an example.
When Jordan shrugged, his eyebrows knotting even more on his shiny forehead I mentally slapped myself for going at it this way.
"We had sex." I mumbled.
"Oh," Jordan's eyes went wide and he looked away from me, his cheeks a bright shade of pink. He scratched the back of his head, a habit he'd picked up when he was nervous. "Oh I knew that," he lied, shrugging. He was trying to come off nonchalant but the way his shoulders nearly bucked and slammed into his ears let me know just how much of a liar he was.
"Well whatever," I sighed. "We did it and he said some stuff about it. That's all."
"What sorta stuff, Bailey?" Jordan looked clueless.
I pulled on my shirt. My feet were even sweaty. "He said I wasn't any good, okay." I huffed, rubbing my forehead where the pain was building. "The reason he broke up with me was because I was boring and not a turn on."
"Fuck," Jordan rarely swore, his mama convincing him there were others way of handling a situation than cursing. Jared had never taken to that rule, rolling his eyes every time she corrected him. This was odd, I thought momentarily, eyeing his soft eyes go hard. "That's not right." he made a move to leave but I snatched his wrist back so fast I nearly fell along with him.
"Where are you going?" I hissed, trying my best to drag him back toward the sanctity of our soda cooler.
"We gotta go tell Jared about that, Bailey." He explained shortly, trying to pull me along with him.
"Why aren't you coming?"
"Are you brain dead?" I asked, tears filling my eyes. "I can't tell Jared about anything." I went on.
"He'll beat the crap out of him."
"That's the idea."
"Everyone will know why though, Jordan. I can't have everyone knowing what he said. I'll just die. Please don't let this happen. If everyone knows it will be the worst thing I've ever felt."
"We can make him..."
"No, Jordan," I felt my insides tremor. "No. You can't make him do anything. The first thing he'll do is go crying to his daddy about what happened and then it'll be all over town. My mom will know, for shits sake. I can't have it. I'll die."
I felt the tension release from my hand and saw him stop moving away. He looked torn, his eyes falling over my face before he nodded grimly. "But he's gonna ask you till you tell him. Don't know why we're prolonging the inevitable."
"Thank you so much. I love you!" I threw my arms around his middle, delighting at the soft way he hugged me back. "You're awesome."
Jordan laughed quietly, rolling his eyes and allowing me to lead him back toward the others. "Got what you want?" Jared asked. In my haste to convince Jordan not to rat me out, I had completely forgotten. I was quicker this time. I ran back and grabbed my drink, setting it on the counter and smiling toward them both as they rung up our stuff. They both eyed me suspiciously and I shrugged it off. Popping the top off my soda, I chugged the first few gulps and sighed happily. This was enough happiness for a while.
Inside the truck it seemed things were back to normal, at least a small fraction of the way. I kept the bottle to my lips, watching Jordan with an apprehensive stare as he slid into the seat next to me. Jared elbowed me on purpose, grinning a tiny bit at the way I nearly snorted my beverage up my nose. It was almost enough to make me forget about my shitty morning. "You gone tell me what he said now, B?" Jared started the old truck, it's engine roaring to life like an angry lion woken from a nap. I shook my head, eyebrows going up and smiling. Jared was one to pry and the look in his eye told me he planned to do just that. So I leaned forward, switching on the old radio and tuning it as best I could on the bumpy road. Finally I reached a station that was comprehensible, my fingers stopping and allowing the song to overtake his curious stares.
"Would you quit staring at me?" I mumbled. Jared laughed, pulling me under his arm like he did when we were younger. I groaned, the weight not overbearing but the fact he wore no shirt and was covered in a thick layer of perspiration was another thing. I giggled, wiggling away only to have him tighten his hold on me. "But I just love looking at you, sweet heart." Jared joked, pressing a sloppy and rather loud kiss on my cheek. I gasped, nearly spilling my drink on the already sticky floorboard. This was the usual, and I don't know why I hadn't expected it sooner. My neck was against his bare armpit, my arms pressed firmly against his ribcage.
"Give me a hug, Bailey," he demanded playfully, tugging me closer. I used to be amazed at how he never ran off the road in his random fits of affection. "Give me a hug now." I laughed out loud, looking up into his big brown eyes. He threw me a warning look and it caused another fit of giggles.
"I ain't letting go until you wrap those arms around me, baby. Just better to go ahead and get it done with it." I gave in, not completely opposed to hugging him from the start. I put my arms around him, struggling a bit with our awkward position and the minimal amount of space between his bare back and the slick seat. "That's more like it," he nodded, letting his chin rest against the top of my head. I smiled at that, watching as our small subdivision came into view.
We lived in the one and only housing development in our area. Not that it would be anything like the subdivisions in a big city. It was made up of about fifty or so houses, all divided and evenly spread out over acres and acres of land. Being relatively private people, most had fences separating their lives from their neighbors. We had been there forever, my family, long before they named our residence, long before the new folks began parking their boats and big black hummers in their front yards. My mom had complained enough at the start, making it to where we had the property furthest away from everyone else. That was one of the one times I praised her hot temper. But that day I was dreading seeing her. She would most definitely have something to say about my break up. She'd never liked Dustin and promised me one day he would bring about heartache.
"Can I go to yall's house?" I asked, looking up into Jared's big brown eyes. He nodded, veering left rather taking the long right that led up my driveway. Down a large gravel drive, past a uneven wood fence and a dozen or so energetic dogs, we stopped at the boys house. The Lancaster's home was a small red farmhouse with white shutters and a big wrap around porch. We parked out back, next to a few four wheelers the boys had kept up since sixth grade, both miserably splattered with mud and bits of grime from our last trip riding. Jordan jumped out, leaving his door open for me. I slammed the door shut, looking up at the old house with a useless grin. I loved this place.
"We got some of that cake from, Angela's birthday left over if you want any," Jordan called over his shoulder. He took off faster than Jared and me, taking the three steps leading up to their backdoor at once. Angela was their little sister. She had turned eleven the week before and had been thrown a huge party to mark the occasion. When we walked inside the house, Jordan was wearing an old t-shirt, and cutting himself and me a rather large slice of cake. Jared reached over and stuck his finger in one of the pieces, claiming it as his own before throwing himself down at the counter. I took one for myself, picking at the girly pink icing and making a face as Jordan stole my fork from my hand. "I ain't your slave, darlin." He smirked. I laughed, picking up the piece with my hands and shoving half of it in my mouth.
"So we going to that party out at Chris's tonight?" Jared asked from the counter. I shrugged.
"Not really in the mood to go out, boys." I licked my lips, setting the rest of my cake down on the paper napkin it had been served on. "I think it's time to stew."
"Nah," Jared disagreed. "You're going out with us tonight. You know we can't go out without you."
I made a face, giving Jordan a small grin. "If you don't come we're gonna have to talk to Molly Jenkins the whole night and you know we don't want that," Jared scoffed, tossing his napkin across the counter. I groaned. Molly was pretty terrible. She had large artificially blonde hair that she often tied a sizable bow around. Her eyes were pretty, this light brown that looked almost mythical in the sunlight but her teeth were yellow and her breath rank, as Jared so frequently pointed out. She wore shirts that were too low, skirts that were too high, and held as much respect for herself as all the boys did, none whatsoever.
"She might not even notice I'm not there," I protested. "It's not like I've stopped her in the past."
"She has a radar that goes off when you're not there, Bails." Jordan laughed. "She'll be humping Jared's leg by the second song."
"No. I'm much too heartbroken to be out dancing with yall. Sorry. You'll have to fight Molly off by yourself." I felt like my decision was already made, but then I saw their pouts.
"Please Bails, we need you." Jared grinned, eyebrows going up and down.
"Nope. Sorry. Just can't do it."
It was later that night, pulling on some shorts and a tank top, that I realized I was too easy when it came to my friends. Jared had hugged me and Jordan had kept begging until I had given in. It had taken, maybe a total, of ten minutes. With their poked out lower lips and incessant pleas I hadn't the strength to keep it going.
I threw myself down on my bed, putting on too much makeup and fighting with my wild hair in my compact mirror. I had yet to tell my mom about the break up, not willing to risk her wanting to talk about exactly what happened. I wasn't in the mood. So slipping on a pair of shoes, I tiptoed out the house and waited on the back of my car for Jared and Jordan to come pick me up.
I think it would only be best to say exactly what Jared and Jordan meant to me. I met Jordan, the first day of sixth grade. He was so skinny then, with soft blonde hair and freckles that danced across his nose. He was shy too, especially around girls. I was having a particularly hard time that year, what with my mom and dad threatening divorce, and my older sister leaving for college. I also couldn't control my hair, seeing as how it had a mind of it's on and do to the outrageous weather we experienced, was large and in charge. My clothes weren't the fashionable either, all old and covered in paint stains from earlier years helping mom out with her random spurts of home decoration. Mama hadn't started her real job yet, and I was forced to live with bad skin and a somewhat questionable wardrobe. Jordan had befriended me after a rather heinous round of volleyball. He was sweet, asking me if I was alright. I had taken a ball to the chest and was embarrassed on account of my new boobs and the way a large splotch of red started forming along my upper chest., peaking over my baggy gym shirt like some sort of rash.
He had made me laugh, making fun of our gym teacher and assuring me the red mark wasn't so bad after all. That was before Jordan was considered a god, before girls like Molly Jenkins found out how hot he was and before penis's were considered anything but mysterious, yet scary boy parts. I had hung out with him in the car line, waiting for our parents to come pick us up. That was also the day I had met Jared, who was already beautiful and aware of the fact. He was tall then, slimmer than he was presently, but still built. His seventh grade body wasn't at all awkward, his eyes dark and cheerful, his smile constant. His hair was shaggier, almost covering his eyebrows and disappearing into the collar of his t-shirt. He had smiled when he met me, asking me how my first day was and wondering why we had never met before. I loved them, that day, for the first time ever. We had been best friends ever since.
They didn't honk when they arrived. Jordan was driving this time, and unlike his softy brother, Jared refused to get out to let me in. Instead he forced me to climb over him, a perverted habit he'd picked up since he realized I was a girl. He hugged me close, kissing my temple while Jordan played with the radio station and drove effortlessly through the old streets.
It was ten minutes before we arrived at the bonfire. I was glad to get out of the car, the heat even stifling at night. Jared walked ahead of Jordan and me, giving handshakes and hugs to random people we all recognized. Jordan tugged at my hair, throwing me one of his trademark smirks, and looking rather uncomfortable in his own shirt.
The fire was blazing at least eight feet in the air, popping and sizzling against the black sky. There were at least thirty people there, all holding drinks and laughing, dancing, singing. The air smelled like summer, I thought, as Jordan handed me a red paper cup. I took my first sip of my beer, wincing at the harsh taste. I was never once for the stuff, but it was usually the only drink available at these parties. So taking a few more, I held Jordan's arm as we went over to search for Jared.
"I was thinking, and you were right about not telling, Jared." Jordan told me. We'd been standing by ourselves, our eyes scanning the giddy faces for a sign of his brother. My beer was still full, standing there with the cup enough to make me feel comfortable. Jordan had finished his second and started on his third.
"Why is that?"
"Because he'd kill him," he answered in a cool manner, his fingers dancing along the plastic of his cup. "I know Jared and thinking about what he'd do if he knew what went down," he paused, giving me a cute smirk. "He'd kill him."
"I know," I grinned right back, leaning against the logs we'd been occupying.
"He's been waiting on some reason to beat the living crap out of Dustin anyway. It'd be too easy."
"Figured," I nodded, suddenly finding no place to smile any more.
"He loves you though, Bails." Jordan tugged at my hair. "We both do."
I nodded appreciatively, taking another miniscule sip of beer. I knew they loved me. I never questioned that. My head and heart weren't concerned about whether or not I got their love. I was worried about other people. Dustin had just been the last boyfriend, the one before that, although not nearly as serious, never really cared either. I couldn't blame them though, not really. I never really loved them back. There was always something missing with other people.
"It's almost a full moon," I commented off handedly. Jordan glanced up at the sky, nodding.
"Sure is," he smirked.
"You and Jared going camping again?" I asked, sliding down onto one of the logs and making myself comfortable there. He followed suit, our eyes watching the countless others dancing around the jumping flames. I hated when they went away.
"Sure are," he replied. I was just about to comment on his lack of full answers, when she walked up.
Molly Jenkins was something to behold. Everything about her screamed for attention, from the tips of her platinum blonde hair, all the way down to the ends of her hot pink toe nails. I never disliked the girl, not finding any real reason to. She was just another girl, in another miniskirt, who thought she had another way to get the boys she wouldn't. I couldn't blame her for liking what she did. Though the boys disagreed with my analysis of her character, I found no real reason to treat her with disrespect. Because, when she wasn't drunk off her ass, she was really a very sweet girl.
"Well hello there, Jordan, Bailey." She giggled at the end of our names, as if they held some secret jokes. I greeted her as usual, eyeing her most recent attire. She wore spiked heels and a pair of tiny blue jean shorts, barely covering her tanned behind. Her shirt was sheer, white, and showed off the lacy red bra underneath. I smirked at her line of vision. Molly had an effect on Jordan, and not the one she hoped. She made the poor boy nervous. He grew ridiculously quiet when she neared, his cheeks went hot, his eyes darted to the ground. It wasn't as if she was going to rape him, but he always appeared if she just might.
"Well, Jordan?" She blinked her large blue eyes in his direction. "Aren't you gonna tell me hey?"
"Hey, Molly" He stated plainly, watching the ground.
"Why you two hiding out over here anyway?" Molly slurred, stumbling over to take a seat between Jordan and me. She leant more toward Jordan's shoulder than mine, grinning seductively as her breast skimmed his arm. "Don't like to party?"
"Just talking, Molly" I explained.
"Always talking, talking, blah blah blah!" She giggled, standing up, only to fall right back down into Jordan's lap. "I don't want to talk anymore, Jordan." And with that, she leant down and let her teeth playfully sink into his earlobe. The boy's eyes nearly bulged out his head. I felt a laugh spew from my lips. I got a hold of myself quickly, but felt another round of chuckles emerge as a quick glimpse of her pink tongue had his eyes nearly rolling back in his head. His body was betraying him, as was I.
"Molly, Molly," he finally managed to push her away. "You can't just jump on me like that."
"You saying you don't like it?" She asked, eyes wide and glassy. "I know someone else that says otherwise." It was when she made a move to grab his most private of areas, that he broke. He stood up quickly, careful not to knock her on her butt, but fast enough to get away. She watched confused as he disappeared into the crowd.
"Oh!" She exclaimed. "I'm sorry, Bailey. I forgot you were here." The funny thing about that girl was, she really seemed apologetic. I didn't care either way. I'd seen Molly makeout with countless others. She'd never taken the time to notice me before either.
"Well that's done then," she sighed defeated. I nodded.
"Where's the other one? Jared... where's Jared at?" I laughed a bit at her self assurance. She smiled, confused, as if she wasn't quite sure what the joke was. I shrugged.
"He's somewhere around here, Molly. You should go try and find him."
"I should," she announced loudly, her volume button broken off. "My lips are still hot."
And then, just like that, she left.
It was a weird night, I noted inwardly. My lips were hot as well, something I hadn't put my finger on before her statement. The air was thick and smelled sweet. The fire sent out warm waves, that reached, even me, on the outskirts of the party. I wouldn't mind a kiss from someone either, and my mind shot to mental images of Jared. That brought an indention to my brow. Reaching up, I pushed my hair from my face, and looked around. Jordan was still missing in action, his seat now remarkably empty next to me. I felt something, remarkable, ignite inside my stomach. I looked up from the ground, and watched as Jared made his way over to me.
He was so charming, and he knew this all too well. It almost seemed like he moved in slow motion, taking long strides through the people all smiling toward him. He was nearing the end of them all, when Molly grabbed him by the belt loops and tugged him tight against her body. Jared's grin was huge, stretching out over his face, and lighting up his eyes. She whispered something in his ear, and he laughed out loud. I felt a pang in my chest. At first, I assumed it was a friendly warning rip, those were common. I usually had those when I noticed him flirting. But soon the ache stretched out and looped in and out of my rib cage. The pain was precise, stopping just short of my heart, and pinching hard. I winced, rubbing a heavy hand over my chest. Oh that was new. Just when I thought I might need help, I felt sudden relief. Jared's hands were on the outsides of my arms, lifting me up to look at him in the eye.
Why had it just stopped like that?
Or more importantly, why had it started in the first place?
"Hey now, girl" Jared's eyes were dark with concern. "You alright?" I nodded wearily, laughing at my own dramatics. He rubbed the outside of my arms, up and down, up and down, until they were hot with the movement.
"My chest hurt for a second," I grinned. He gave me a funny look, leaning down and pressing his lips to my forehead. He brought me at arms length, then tucked me safely under his arm.
"Where'd Molly go?"
"I told her Garrett was looking for her," he grinned. "Old boys drunk off his ass and looking to score. Might as well do it with someone who won't bite his head off in the morning."
"That's nasty, Jared" I stated plainly, walking even further away from the party under his arm. He shrugged it off. He always did.
"Where's my brother at?" He asked moments later. We had both took a seat on the back of his truck, legs swinging back and forth against the dingy metal. Jared had a beer bottle in his right hand. I had discarded my red paper cup just after the aching chest. I crossed my arms over my body, suddenly a bit colder than moments before. Jared leant back lazily, eyes scanning the sea of grass and random girls that strutted past him for a look.
"He ran off after Molly attacked him," I smiled. "I've never seen him look so scared."
"He needs to learn how to handle her," Jared stated plainly. "All you gotta do is tell her no. I mean, she's a little persistent, but Jordan..."
"Jordan' isn't like you." I interrupted him, eyebrows high. "He's never been like you. He's sweet and shy, and he doesn't know what to do when girls like that throw themselves at him. He's just Jordan."
"Molly's been around since junior high though, Bails"
"It doesn't matter," I told him. "Jordan will never be used to her, just like you'll never meet a girl that'll make you nervous."
Jared smirked at that, nodding appreciatively. He agreed. I knew the conversation was over, at least that one, and leant further back into the bed of the truck. He grinned up at me like a lazy cat. I rolled my eyes, reaching over and pushing his sweaty hair from his forehead. He stopped smiling for a moment, lips falling into a thoughtful line. I moved my hand away from his face, glancing out over the party, ignoring the way he stared.
"What'd that ass hole say to you this morning?" He asked, sitting up straight. I shook it off, glancing into his eyes, then back down at my feet.
"Nothing, Jared" I smiled. "It's not important."
"Course it is, Bails." He smiled wide. "Made you cry didn't it?"
I eyed his wearily, nudging him with my shoulder.
"I didn't cry until I got into that Truck with you, Jared." He looked taken aback with that statement.
"Don't say I made you..."
"Sure you did," I bit my lip, tearing up a piece of grass and throwing it back off the side of the truck.
"I'm gonna kick his ass either way."
I shook my head, sighing softly at his promise. He meant it. He always meant what he said to me. I took in one more breath, then leant in close, forcing eye contact.
"If I tell you what he said, and I tell you what to do about it, you gotta listen." He nodded. "And I don't mean kinda bullshit me listen, I mean LISTEN."
And I did want to tell him. It didn't feel right, to not tell him.
I leant over and made sure he understood me.
"You do know, Dustin and I had sex right?" I figured the best way to explain it was direct. I knew by Jared's reaction, that he did not know. His brow lowered, his mouth took on a grim line. I groaned, pushing my own hair back from my forehead.
"Don't look at me that way,"
"Why?" He looked disgusted, sputtering a few crazy questions under his breath. He scratched the back of his head, standing up and taking a few steps away from me.
"We just did," I shrugged. "We were together four years. You hand to of known," I whispered.
"No, I certainly did not." I knew he was mad, his accent growing more prominent with every word. "Why the fuck did you stoop to having your first time with fucking, Dustin Mckenzie?"
"I thought I loved him. I can't take it back now," I grew shrill.
"He... you..." I watched the information register, jaw clenching tight under his stubbled flesh. "He touched you?"
"That's the only way to do it, right?" I grinned. "Unless we were doing it way wrong-"
"Bailey, that shit ain't funny."
"Sure it is," I challenged, my smile more serious than mirthful.
"I can't believe this," he looked almost pained, physically pained. "I didn't think you did all that."
I was embarrassed, ashamed even.
"Do you want to know what he said or not?" I felt my cheeks grow hot with impatience. "You're making me feel disgusting."
"I don't mean to do that," Jared sat back down beside me, close enough to feel his warmth. "I just thought you'd be with someone better," he mumbled. "That's all."
I nodded, wiping away a solitary tear falling down my face. Jared groaned, grabbing me without warning, and sitting me on his lap. Had I not been so upset, I would've laughed. But I didn't. Instead I caught my breath and prayed to God I wouldn't cry.
"Now go on with it," he urged. "I won't open my big mouth this time." He smirked. "Swear,"
"I don't know," I bit the insides of my lips. "You have to promise me, Jared. Please promise me that you won't hurt him for it."
"I can't make that..."
"No." I stated firmly. "You have to or I'm not telling you."
He nodded once more, squeezing me as affirmation to go on. So I did.
"He broke up with me because he said I wasn't any good." '
"Good?" Jared leant back, hands still perched on my hips. He looked confused. "Good like... good?" His brow contorted into a mass of wrinkles. I felt defeated. I would have to explain.
"No good...like at it," I watied for his reaction
He didn't understand it at first, When the realization came over his features, it was if a bright red light shone through his eyes. In fact, I'd say they did literally glow red for a moment. I watched them shimmer ruby in the firelight, confused and amazed at the reality of the color. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it at all. He seemed to be calming himself, his breathing sharp and pained through his nostrils. I reached forward and touched his face, my fingers spanning the width of his stubble covered jaw. He was hot to the touch.
"Jared," I whispered. He seemed to snap back. His skin cooled, and in the blink of an eye, came back the soft brown color.
"I'm gonna fucking kill him," he stated in a matter of fact tone. I gripped his t-shirt in my hands, giving him a good shake. I quickly convinced myself those red eyes I had seen, were simply, a mixture of fire and brown. There was no reason to think too hard on it, not with him threatening to do the very thing he'd told me he wouldn't do.
"No sir, you are not." I stated firmly. "You promised me!"
"Don't give a shit," he ignored my busy fingers. "You know me."
"This is one time when you can't be yourself, Jared." I quieted his ever increasing tone with a stern look, I reserved for such situations. "If you hurt him, the whole town will know what I am."
"And what the hell do you think you are?" Jared snapped, eyeing me suspiciously.
"I'm a bore," I smiled as realistically as possible. "I'm no fun," I added on quietly. My eyes felt bright with tears. I so needed a proper cry. Jared's jaw tightened against his flesh, his eyes softened though, and I knew I would get what I wanted.
"I don't believe that shit, Bails." He stated.
"You might as well.." I grinned.
"No, a girl don't dance like you, and walk like you," he gave my hips a little shake. "And give hugs like you, and not be good at sex."
"Jared," I hushed him, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Thank you."
"No problem, baby." He pulled me to him for a tight squeeze. I relaxed against his body, memorizing the thick scent of his cologne, his messy brown hair against my neck. The smell was very comforting, very Jared.
"See what I mean," he whispered in my ear. "No way in hell he's right." I laughed aloud at that, leaning back and shaking my head at his comment.
"You know I'm here always right?" He looked sincere. I made a face, confused. "I mean, we're always here, Jordan and me." He tipped my chin up with his index.
"Sure I know that, Jared." I smiled, touched by his unusual softness.
"You just looked worried for a minute there, Bails."
"Nah," I interrupted.
"Made me feel uneasy."
And as if that were something weird, inhuman, he looked thoughtful. I shook my head, standing up quick to rid myself of his nearness. He was charming, even when he didn't mean to be.
"Let's go find that brother of yours," and I reached out and grabbed his hand. Jared followed behind me, and not once did he try to let go.