“A summer of love,” she expressed.
“A summer of lust,” I corrected. “Lust and nothing more.”
“Well, regardless, I’m glad you’ve found an escape from the madness. Every person deserves a haven, Grace, a place they can go to breathe fresh air, because sometimes life can be toxic.”
“Yeah, I’m just worried, I guess. If people found out, it would be a mess for both of us, for my family—my mom would flip out.”
“Well, that’s easy,” she told me. “Just don’t let people find out. You’ll both need to stop looking at each other like that, though.”
“Like you have a secret between your legs.”
“It’s so stupid, but it’s fun, you know? Almost like a game. It feels dangerous in a way.”
“You deserve a bit of living on the edge. Have fun. You’ve lived your life being everything to everyone else, and now it’s your turn to live a little. Now, tell me everything—like how good was it?”
I bit my bottom lip and leaned in again. “Have you ever heard of a move called the spider?”
“Oh, yeah.” She nodded. “I’m guessing you’ve recently been tied up. Have you tried the wango tango?” she asked me.
I raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never heard of that.”
“Here, give me your phone.” I handed it over, and she quickly moved her fingers around. “Okay, I just downloaded the karma sutra book Harry and I rushed through in no time. You’ll love it. Plus, you don’t even have to go to the gym anymore. I didn’t sculpt this butt of mine doing squats in the gym, that’s for sure.”
“All of this is so new to me. All Finn ever did was missionary.”
Josie cringed. “Not even with you on top?”
“He said he didn’t like seeing my body in that position.”
“Ohh, I get it,” she remarked, nodding slowly. “He’s gay.”
“Honey, no straight guy would ever care about the shape of a woman on top of him. All he would see is boobs in his face, and he would be a happy camper. So either he’s gay or just a straight-up asshole, and no matter what, you’re better off without him.”
I was so glad I’d reconnected with Josie. I needed her humor more than I knew.
“Next time you see Jackson, do the firecracker move,” she told me. She shimmied her shoulders a bit and gave me a wicked grin. “It’s explosive.”
“Gracelyn! Gracelyn Mae! It’s me, Grace! It’s Charlotte!”
My body tensed as I walked through the streets of Chester and heard Charlotte’s voice shouting my way. I only had two choices. I could break out into a sprint—no thanks, running is gross—or just stop, engage for a few minutes, and then go off on my own to hide away from the world.
I paused my steps, took a deep breath, and then put on the biggest fake Southern smile I could muster. “Oh hey, Charlotte. How are ya doing this wonderful Friday morning?”
“Oh, look at you, all chipper,” she remarked, patting my arm. “I’m glad to see you’re in high spirits after that weird speech you gave at the music festival last weekend.” She pursed her lips and crossed her arms with that big ole smile. “It’s a shame, ain’t it? You think you know someone, and then, BOOM, they just turn out to be somethin’ else, though I’m sure there were warning signs you ignored, right?”
I parted my lips to speak, but she cut me off.
“But what is your papa always saying? God works in mysterious ways, and ain’t that the truth. I hope you’re still praying each night.”
Only to Jackson’s body…
“Well, thanks for the chat, Charlotte, but I really need to get a move on. We’ll talk later.”
“Yes! Tonight at the get-together,” she told me.
“Oh, sorry, I can’t make it today. I’m busy tonight.”
“But your mama said you’d be there, so I’ll see you later! I put you down for an apple cobbler! Okay, I gotta run! Bye!” she said, hurrying away before I could answer.
I was on my way to Judy’s house, but I did a quick one-eighty because it was time for me to have a heart-to-heart with Mama.
I couldn’t take any more of her trying to control my airwaves.
* * *
“You’re going to Charlotte’s for chitchat night, Gracelyn Mae,” Mama ordered as she shifted through binders of the workshops held at the church throughout the summer. I paced the living room, beyond annoyed with her antics.
“No, I’m not. You can’t just do this, Mama. You can’t tell people I’m going to do things that I’m not.”
“But you are,” she commanded, closing the binder. “Especially after that outburst you had in town last weekend. Look, I get it—you’re going through some kind of midlife crisis right now, and you feel lost, but you cannot keep running from the people trying to help you.”
I huffed, blowing out hot air. “Charlotte Lawrence is not trying to help me. None of the girls who go to that type of gathering are trying to help. They’re just digging for gossip.”