This is the first night she meets Ryder.
“I promise, we don’t bite. Well sometimes Tanner and Owen bite each other, and Drea’s…yeah she’s not totally safe either. Most girls want Shane to bite them. I don’t think he’s your type though I guess you never know.”
Crossing my arms, I say, “This is the part where you try to scare me into going home, right? Why don’t we skip it? You go your way and I’ll go mine.”
Fighting my smile, I look away, proud of myself. That sounded way more believable than I figured it would because honestly, the thought of hanging out with his friends does make me nervous.
“Woulda' got me if you didn’t smile and look away. It’s okay to be freaked. You never know how us kids from the wrong side of the tracks can be.” Then he does the strangest thing, he sits down in the sand, half his pants wet and all. “You’re not scared of me too, are you? Aren’t you supposed to see me as your knight in shining armor now or some shit?”
What. An. Asshole.
“That’s obviously what you’re looking for. You saved me out there and now you have to protect the helpless, little girl so no bad guys get her while she sits on the beach. I don’t need anyone to save me.”
“Nah, you got me wrong, rich girl. I know who and what I am and I’m proud of it. Have fun.” He stands again and starts to walk away. His voice plays in my head. The way it caught when he spoke. Guilt starts snaking it’s way through my insides. Yeah he was a jerk to me but he did save me as well.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t want to be alone. I want to pretend today didn’t happen, the same way I pretend my past didn’t happen either.
“Wait,” jumps out of my mouth before I can stop it. Saying it, feeling it makes me raw, exposed in a way that makes me skin itch. Needing is weak and I promised myself I would never be that. If I’m weak, it will be easier for our family curse to get it’s claws into me.
Pierced lip boy stops, pauses and then turns around. He doesn’t say a word until he gets back over to me. “You should take your pants off.”
Unexpected heat simmers beneath the surface of my skin. “I…What…I’m not…”
He laughs and shakes his head. “I’m not trying to have sex with you. Unless you want sex, then I’m game.”
My cheeks get hot next. I’ve had boyfriends but no one has ever said something like that to me before.
“You’re shivering. Your pants are wet. Take them off. Your small enough that you can sit with your knees in the hoodie to keep your warm.”
Oh. Okay. That makes sense. “Turn around.”
“Really?” There’s enough question in his tone that tells me he’s not asking to be a jerk. He’s genuinely surprised I would ask him that.
Still, he turns around.
As fast as I can, I slip out of my pants, lie them out and then sit down. I pull my knees up into the hoodie like he said, immediately feeling warmer. “Okay, you can turn around now.”
He does and then he sits beside me. We’re quiet for a few minutes, and again I feel my cheeks warm. Why did I ask him to stay? I don’t even know this guy. I don’t need anyone.
“You can go,” I whisper.
“Nah, it’s cool. I didn’t really feel like being around a bunch of people tonight anyway.”
We go back to being quiet again. Pierced lip boy rolls his pant legs up, and then stares out at the ocean. Questions rapid fire in my brain: why doesn’t he want to be around people? Is he as lonely as he looks?
And then something strange happens… I start to pretend he’s like me. That he feels cursed to be who his parents are. That he’s trapped. That he lives a lie to everyone close to him because he’s so scared to show them who he is.
Because he’s afraid of who that might be.
I open my mouth to say something, what I don’t know but his phone rings, saving me.
He pulls it out of his pocket and answers with a, “what’s up?”
He covers the cell and looks at me. “Do you have a car?”
Back on the phone, he says, “Nah, I’m cool. I have a ride. I’ll catch you guys later.”
I don’t bring up the fact that he didn’t ask me and that I don’t know where he lives. I’m just thankful not to be alone tonight. Not to have to think about Mom, Dad…or Amelia.
“Your name’s Lulu?” He asks after a bit.
Immediately I tense up.
“Relax. I’m not stalking you. You said it earlier.”
Oh yeah. Duh. Little flashes of Mom from today flitter into my head. How excited she looked at the school, how sad she looked at my house. “My mom named me after Virginia Woolf,” I say, not sure why I do. “But my middle name is Lulu. That’s what I go by.”
Pierced lip boy nods.
More quiet, so much quiet I wonder if he feels like he’s suffocating in it like I am.
“So I guess this means you don’t want to have sex?” There’s laughter in his voice, and before I know it, I’m laughing as well. I’m not choking on the quiet anymore, so when we slip back into it, I feel strangely okay.