Let’s back up a moment.
“What do you mean, ‘Amelia said’? Since when does Amelia talk to Sheriff Mitchell?”
Billy shakes his head. “Trust me—you don’t want to know.”
he holds up the screwdriver. “You still got it? Or have you lost your touch?”
For the second time tonight, I accept his challenge. I snatch the screwdriver and walk up to the window. And under twenty seconds later, we’re inside.
Oh, yeah—I’ve still got it.
The roller rink was our place: breaking in after closing, our national pastime. Idle hands really are the devil’s tools. So—for God’s sake—get your kids a hobby.
Ten minutes later I’m flying across the slick floor in worn, size-six skates.
It’s a wonderful feeling. Like floating on air—spinning on big, puffy clouds.
The stereo system plays the eighties’ greatest hits in the background. Billy leans against the wall—toking up and blowing the smoke out the open window.
he inhales deeply. And tufts of white puff out from his lips as he says, “You know, you could come to California with me. Set up your own shop. I have friends—guys with money—they’d invest with you. My friends are your friends. Me casa es su casa—and all that.”
I stop sliding as I consider his words. “Actually, that means, ‘My house is your house.’”
Billy’s eyebrows come together. “Oh.” he shrugs. “I always did suck in Spanish. Senorita Gonzalas hated me.”
“That’s because you crazy-glued her Lhasa apsos together.”
he giggles, remembering. “Oh, yeah. That was a great night.”
I chuckle too. And go into a spin that any Olympic ice skater would be proud of. The song changes to “Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi. It was our prom song.
Raise your hand if it was yours too. I’m pretty sure, after 1987, it’s been the prom song of every high school in America at least once.
Billy snuffs out the joint with his fingertips. Then skates up to me. he holds out his arm, doing his best Beetlejuice impression.
I smile. And take his arm. I put my hands on his shoulders, and while Bon Jovi sings about smoky rooms and losing keys, we start to sway.
Billy’s hands sit low on my back. I turn my head and rest my cheek against his chest. he’s warm. his flannel shirt is soft and smells like pot and earth . . . and home. I feel his chin against the top of my head as he asks me quietly, “Remember prom?”
I smile. “Yeah. Remember Dee Dee’s dress?”
he laughs. Because Delores was the original trendsetter—even then. Lady Gaga’s got nothing on her. her dress was white and stiff, like a ballerina’s tutu. And it had a string of twinkling lights along the hem. It was really pretty.
Until it caught on fire.
her date, Louis Darden, put it out with the punch bowl of spiked Kool-Aid. She spent the rest of the night sticky and smelling like a doused campfire.
I continue our trek down memory lane. “Remember the last day of junior year?”
Billy’s chest rumbles as he snickers. “Not my stealthiest moment.”
It was the final day of school—and about one hundred and three degrees inside our sadly under-air-conditioned school. But Principal Cleeves refused to let us out early. So Billy pulled the fire alarm.
Right down the hall from where the principal was standing.
A hot pursuit ensued, but Billy successfully avoided capture.
So the principal went on the intercom system and tried paging him. “Billy Warren, please report to the main office. Immediately.”
“I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but come on.
Did they really think I was stupid enough to actually go?”
I laugh against Billy’s shirt. “And then as soon as you walked in senior year, Cleeves grabbed you and was all like, ‘Mr. Warren, there’s a chair in detention with your name on it.’”
And there really was. They stenciled his name on the back of a chair, like a director’s chair on a movie set.
Billy sighs. “Good times.”
I nod. “The best.”
And as words about favorite songs and loves that would never end swirl around us, I close my eyes. Billy’s arms tighten around me just a bit, pulling me closer.
Do you see where this is going? I didn’t.
“I’ve missed this, Katie. I miss you.”
I don’t say it back, but it’s nice to hear. And it’s even nicer to be held.
To be wanted.
I haven’t felt anything more than friendly affection for Billy in a long, long time. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. The girl I used to be. The one who thought there was nothing sweeter than looking into Billy Warren’s eyes. Nothing more romantic than hearing him sing. Nothing more exciting than riding in his car, late at night, after curfew.
I remember what it feels like to love him. Even though I don’t love him in quite the same way anymore.
I gaze up at Billy’s face as he sings the song’s words softly. To me.
Looking back now, I’m not exactly sure who leaned where, who moved first. All I know is one minute we were dancing in the middle of the skating rink . . . and the next, Billy was kissing me.
And it only took a second before I was kissing him back.
Kissing Billy is . . . nice. It’s familiar. Sweet.
Like finding your old Strawberry Shortcake house in your parents’ attic. And you smile when you see it. You run your hand over the balcony and remember all the days you spent wrapped up in its make-believe world. It’s nostalgic. A part of your childhood.
But it’s a part you’ve left behind. Because you’re a grown-up now.
So no matter how dear the memories are, you’re not going to bust out Apple Dumplin’ and Plum Puddin’ and start playing.
The kiss ends and I lower my head. And I stare at Billy’s shirt.
You know that line—I think it’s from a song—if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with?
That could fit really well in this situation.
Except for the fact that I already love Billy. Too much to take advantage of his devotion—too much to use him to heal my broken heart and bruised ego. he deserves better than that. Billy Warren is no one’s consolation prize. And I’d happily scratch the eyes out of any woman who tried to make him one.
he once told me I wasn’t the girl he fell in love with anymore.