“Why’d you stop?”
When my mom left, I grew to hate everything that reminded me of her. To this day, I still can’t stand the smell of coconut perfume or the taste of lemon meringue pie. She’s the reason I haven’t danced ballet since I was eleven years old, the reason I can’t bring myself to wear ballet flats even when they’re the height of college-girl fashion.
“Just grew out of it,” I say, rising to my feet to escape further interrogation. “You ready to head back to the bus?”
Joel doesn’t move to stand. Instead, his blue eyes track me from where he’s lying in the grass and he says, “Why do you do that?”
“Shut me down every time I ask you something personal.”
“I don’t know anything personal about you,” I argue, citing it as evidence that it’s better this way. Instead, he takes it as a challenge.
“I used to draw,” he offers, and a line forms in my forehead.
“I used to draw.” He pushes off the ground and rises to his feet, wiping the grass from his shorts. “Not many people know that about me. I used to paint a little too, but not as much. Music classes and art classes were pretty much the only reasons I stayed in school.”
“Why’d you quit doing it if you loved it so much?”
He straightens and says, “I’ll tell you if you tell me.”
After a moment, I offer a trade. “Tell me and draw me something, and we’ll call it a deal.”
Joel assesses me for a moment, and then he counters with, “When’s your birthday?”
“I’ll draw you something for your birthday. How’s that?”
I don’t know why I want him to draw me something, but I do. I want him to draw me something meant just for me, something I can keep. “Promise,” I demand, and he doesn’t hesitate.
“I promise.” The sincerity in his blue eyes tells me he means it.
“You first then,” I say.
“I quit because it just stopped mattering so much.”
He shrugs. “I used to draw mostly when I was alone, and I’m never alone anymore.”
I stare at him for a long moment before sighing and knowing it’s my turn. “I quit dancing because it was my mom’s dream, not mine.”
It’s not the entire truth, but it’s the closest I’ve ever told anyone.
“I’M JUST SAYING we should look at the evidence,” Rowan says as I toss clothes from my suitcase in a tornado of not-skirts and not-dresses. There’s a festival’s worth of rock stars outside—including one in particular who seems dead set on not noticing how hot I still am—and I’m stuck on the bus with a consignment shop wardrobe and a fashion-challenged best friend.
“I’m never going to forgive you,” I complain, cursing myself for letting her pack for me.
Ignoring me as if I said nothing at all, she begins counting on her fingers. “One, Joel got you these tickets.”
“I mean, what the hell is this?” I hold up an oversized T-shirt that looks like it could swallow me whole. “Do I look like I weigh five hundred pounds?”
“Two, he fixed your door.”
“And this!” I present a pair of ridiculously long shorts. “Even if I was a forty-year-old mother of five, I still wouldn’t be caught dead in these.”
“Three, he spent all day following you around.”
“I should just go to this party naked,” I grumble.
“Four, he ignored every other girl who tried to get his attention—”
“ROWAN,” I interrupt, huffing and turning on my haunches to scowl at her, “do you know what all that evidence says? He wants to be friends.”
Not even two hours ago, I was lying on my back beside him, and instead of crawling over top of me or even just kissing me like he wouldn’t have been able to resist doing a few weeks ago, he insisted on talking about dancing. And drawing. And anything except why he’s no longer interested in me, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the only thing that really needs to be talked about.
Rowan lifts her eyebrow at me. “Do you remember when I thought Adam just wanted to be friends, and you told me I was an idiot?”
I turn my attention back to the suitcase, taking my frustration out on clothes that get thrown across the room.
“I hate to tell you this,” she continues, “but you’re an idiot.”
“He hasn’t even tried to kiss me at all this week,” I growl, standing up and dumping the suitcase on the bed. An avalanche of clothes tumbles from the mountain I create, none of them the kind I’m looking for. “We hang out, we have fun. He says he cares about me, but all he ever wants to do is talk. He doesn’t even want to have sex with me anymore!”
I’m so frustrated by what happened at the tree, I could scream, but I’m trying to put a cap on my crazy. I’m not going to try to make him jealous. I’m not going to beg. If he wants to be friends, I’ll be his friend.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t look hot doing it. He should be fully aware of what he’s missing.
“Maybe he wants more than sex,” Rowan counters, and I give her a look that says, Are you freaking kidding me?
“Dee, I live with Joel, okay? I’m his friend, and trust me, he’d never carry my stuff around for me all day or let me drink the last of his water.”