Page 21 of For Lila, Forever

A minute or so later, the light to her room flicks on, though the curtains are drawn. A minute after that, the light goes out.

Everything stings: my eyes, my chest, my ego.


I go back inside. I can’t watch any longer.

I’m such an idiot.

Chapter 11

Thayer

It’s mid-morning when I wake on Tuesday. My tongue feels like sandpaper and my head is pounding. The daylight pouring in from my open windows damn near burns my eyes, but I fight through it and make my way to the bathroom to shower.

I’m sure my absence at the breakfast table this morning will raise some questions and earn me a Spanish Inquisition from my parents, but I’ll just say I stayed up late and wanted to get some extra sleep. With Ashlan’s arrival, they won’t think twice about it. They’ll think we chatted all night, catching up like old friends who didn’t just see each other less than two weeks ago at college.

I run the shower and toss my clothes in the hamper before grabbing my phone off the nightstand. We might not have cell service out here, but at least I can still listen to music. I shut the door, tap my playlist, and The Killer’s Spaceman begins to play before I step under the hot shower spray.

When I’m finished, I step out and secure a towel around my waist, my headache beginning to subside. My mind begins to wander to Lila.

I kissed her yesterday behind the shed, after she said she didn’t know how she felt about me. What she was really saying was that she liked me and she didn’t know how she felt about that.

I don’t know what came over me, but the next thing I knew, my mouth was on hers and my hands were in her hair and when it was over, she was looking at me in a whole new light.

We’re playing with fire, I know. But I can’t help myself.

She’s an enigma.

A puzzle I want to solve.

A code I need to crack.

I’ve never met anyone like her. She doesn’t throw herself at me. She makes me work like hell for an ounce of her attention. She’s smart-mouthed and sassy, independent and stronger than most people would be given her current life situation. And then there’s her beauty, which is nothing more than a bonus.

I’ve seen a thousand beautiful girls before and there’s certainly no shortage of them at school, but Lila has what all of the other girls don’t—a personality.

I brush my teeth and step out of the steamy bathroom, my phone now blasting Modest Mouse’s Missed the Boat. I’m two steps into my room when I stop in my tracks.

Lila’s in my room, making my bed.

Her back is to me and there are earbuds in her ears.

I watch as she fluffs my pillows and tucks the corners of my quilt under the mattress, and when she finally realizes I’m standing in the doorway of the en suite, she gasps and yanks her earbuds out.

“You scared me.” Her hand rests on her chest for a second before she shuts off her music. “I didn’t know you were in here.”

“You didn’t hear my music?” I point behind me.

She lifts the cord of her earbuds.

“I’m almost finished,” she says, turning away and grabbing a feather duster from her cleaning caddy. “Let me know when you’re done in the bathroom so I can get out of your hair.”

I linger for a second, my hand hooked on the back of my neck.

I want to talk about the kiss yesterday … and the question she didn’t have a chance to answer.

“Lila … about yesterday,” I say.

She whips around to look at me, brows lifted. “You don’t have to say anything. I know it was a mistake. I’m perfectly capable of acting like it didn’t happen.”

“No. That’s not what I’m saying.”

“Well, that’s what I’m saying.”

She dusts my nightstand and lampshade before moving to the writing desk in the corner that once belonged to my grandmother.

“I’m confused,” I say. “You kissed me back. I thought …”

“You thought I liked it?” she asks.

“Yeah.”

“I mean, you’re not a bad kisser if that’s what you’re getting at. So congrats on that.”

God, she’s a smartass.

“I’m not fishing for compliments, Lila.” I massage the back of my neck, watching her work her way around the rest of my room. “You didn’t answer my question yesterday.”

Her adorable little nose crinkles. “You’re still hung up on that?”

“Yeah. I am.” I fold my arms across my bare chest.

“That’s the problem these days. Everyone is so obsessed with what other people think of them,” she says, shaking her feather duster. “It’s really restrictive, you know? You end up living your life for other people and not for yourself, and that’s no way to live.”

She turns to dust a bookshelf.

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it,” I say. “But if you’d like, I’d be happy to tell you what I think of you.”

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