The silence between us was full of soft chirps from an army of crickets probably about to descend on us. I hated bugs. All kinds of bugs except ladybugs. They were kosher in my book. There was also probably a stinkbug in my hair. I’d heard one a few moments before and nothing made me freak out quicker than one of those archaic looking monsters, and they were everywhere. Having invaded West Virginia like we were its own personal version of D-Day, they had made our town their bug bitch. Bugs were useless. I didn’t care about cross-pollination. They could go cross-pollinate my ass and—
“Can you believe it?” Linds said, pulling me away from my bug obsession before I jumped from the grass and ran screaming into the nearest shelter. “We’re going to start our senior year. Freaking finally.”
My smile returned and a ridiculous flutter began in the pit of my stomach. Senior year was a big deal. Besides the fact I could just coast through classes, I was so ready to be out of this town. The University of Maryland wasn’t as far as I could go, but it would work for now. My stomach twisted around the beer. Part of me was happy and the other part felt like a balloon that had been let go and was unexpectedly floating up into the sky.
I made a face at that thought as I looked at the two beers I was holding. God, I needed to drink more. Or less. Probably less.
Linds rested her cheek on my shoulder and I leaned into her. Her cool bottle ended up resting against my leg. “But you suck. You’re not going to WVU. What am I going to do without you?”
“Run your mouth more than you do already?” I laughed as she jerked away from me and gaped, feigning shock. “You’ll be fine. And we’re going to visit each other every other weekend, remember? And we have breaks where both of us will be home.”
“I know. And you know what else I know? You will find a new guy and you won’t even remember Gavin’s name. You’re going to be like Gavin who? Who is that lame, piece of poo-poo on a poo-poo platter?”
“Poo-poo platter?” A laugh bubbled up and broke free. “Are you drunk?”
“Nope.” She knocked her shoulder against mine. “You know, I’m kind of surprised he isn’t here.”
“He’s still at the beach with his parents. He’s not getting back until tomorrow.”
Her lips turned down at the corners. “Are you still talking to him?”
Contrary to what Linds believed, when Gavin and I broke up at the end of May, it was mutual . . . for the most part. He wanted to take our relationship further than I wanted to go with him. He hadn’t been a dick about it. Frankly, he seemed kind of relieved that I wasn’t as into him as I’d been telling myself I was. We’d known each other since elementary school and had been best friends since forever. We’d been dating for almost two years, and it had been fun . . . and easy. Things used to feel good—feel exciting whenever we were alone, but it had gotten to the point that doing anything naughty began to feel like I was making out with my brother.
And that was just really disgusting.
And I didn’t even have a brother.
“Gavin and I are still friends, Linds. You know that.” I took a sip out of my old bottle and nearly threw up as warm beer sloshed down my throat. Gross. “And I really don’t want to date anyone. What’s the point? I’ll be leaving for UM.”
Linds glanced up at the stars, scrunching up her face. “Do you know who else I heard was going to UM?”
I raised a brow and waited. Everyone and their sister and brother and Mary, Mother of God, was going to WVU or Shepherd. When she didn’t respond, I nudged her with my elbow. “Who?”
“Jensen Carver. Apparently, he’s going to UM. You could totally get with him.”
I stared at her and blinked a couple of times. “Jensen? I don’t think I’ve spoken more than an entire sentence to Jensen in, like, almost four years. So I don’t see how him going to the same college is really relevant to anything.”
“No time like now to take that one sentence to two sentences and turn it into some bow-chick-a-yum-yum.” She giggled as I gaped at her. “What?”
“What? He’s a stuck-up asshole!”
“Shh,” she said, laughing as she glanced over her shoulder. Talking bad about hot boys—and Jensen was hot with an extra T and a side of Linds’ yum-yum sauce—was apparently the only thing she wasn’t vocal about. We were far enough away from the pool anyway. “I still don’t understand your problem with him.”
I cocked my head, shooting her a death glare. “Uh, yes you do.”
“That was, like, a long time ago, Ella.” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I don’t think he’s stuck up.”
“He doesn’t really talk to people outside of his inner group of guys or whoever he’s dating this month. I don’t even know how he’s as popular as he is.”
That was a lie. I did know.
Even though Jensen didn’t hail from a super-rich family like Brock and he’d spent freshman through most of his junior year in a different state, he was attractive and athletic—first-string quarterback. Throw in asshole and you had the “A” trifecta of popularity.
Attractive. Athletic. Asshole.
Politics of high school at its finest.
I took a long gulp of my newest beer.
“Maybe he’s just quiet?” she protested.
The truth was that Jensen had always been a bit on the quiet side. Had, being the key word. I had no idea how Jensen was now. I shook my head and then tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “Why are we talking about this?”
“Whatever. We’ll both be single our senior year. Probably better that way.” Grinning in a way that would’ve lit up her dark eyes if I could see them, she held her bottle high between us. “To our senior year! Cheers, baby!”
Unsure of which beer to toast now that I was the one double fisting, I raised the half-empty one. “This is going to be a great year.”
“Yes, it is. It’s going to be even greater if we stop sitting out here by ourselves like total freaks.”
I laughed. “All right. Let me, uh . . .” Not wanting to leave a bottle out in the field, I shrugged. “Never mind.”
Rising to my feet, I shimmied my hips until my dress situated itself. “Do I have any dirt on my butt? Or bugs? Are there any bugs on me? You’d let—”
Linds snorted. “There are no bugs on you. Here . . .” She smacked at my butt with enough force to move me a couple of inches. “If you did, not anymore.”
“Thanks.” I turned around, eyeing her. “I feel like I’ve just been violated, by the way.”
“Shut up.” Looping her arm through mine, she grinned. “You liked it. Everyone likes a Lindsey level of butt fondling.”
“That’s what I hear.”
She sucked in a sharp gasp. “Bitch.”
A laugh curled through the night air as her arm tightened around mine. “Love you.”
“Love you long time,” I replied, grinning as we hoofed it up the slight hill and the party came into view once more. Apparently I’d been hiding out for longer than I’d realized. “Wow.”
Bright light streamed over the large patio and packed pool. Little dots fluttered in the stream of light, almost like glitter . . . if glitter wasn’t in the form of bugs that most likely bit the every loving crap out of you.
I really needed to stop thinking about bugs.
The thump of music was broken up by shouts and laughter. Water sprayed into the air as a guy on the football team power bombed the pool, dousing a cluster of girls in heels that stood too close and causing a splash big enough to drench half of our senior class.
My eyes scanned for friendly faces and ended up on a whole lot of male flesh. The group of shirtless guys standing near the gas grill was the who’s who of hot guys at MHS. All of them played one sport or another—football, soccer, baseball, or basketball. And all of them took keeping their bodies sports-ready very, very seriously.
Thank God and Lind’s baby Jesus for that.
Their dedication to various favorite American pastimes packed on the biceps and cut those stomachs in a way that made a girl think about doing stupid things. Lots of stupid things.