“It’s your life.” Those words were simple and overused, but that was always true of the truth. “What would your thirty-year-old self say?
“If he’s sitting in an office pushing legal paperwork, he’s probably cussing me.”
I shrugged and looked up at the sky. “Sounds to me like you know the answer.”
“It’s a difference between want and should, isn’t it?”
“Yes. You should do what you want.”
He looked over at me and smiled, and I met his eyes. He watched me for a moment, and then his gaze fell to my lips. “You smell like ice cream.”
My breath caught. “So?”
“I’m just kind of wondering if you taste like it.”
After a short pause, I choked then burst out in howling laughter.
He grinned. “What? What’s funny?”
I couldn’t stop the ugly cackling bubbling up from deep inside of me, like it had been waiting there my entire life to be set free. My eyes watered. Weston quietly chuckled, too.
“Man,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m glad it’s dark.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, wiping my eyes.
“Because my face has got to be bright red right now.”
I nudged him. “Don’t be embarrassed. Two weeks ago if someone told me you’d be saying that to me, I would have thought they were legitimately insane.”
“Would you have wanted me to kiss you two weeks ago?”
I could only manage a side glance; then my line of sight dropped to my feet dangling from the tailgate. “No.”
“For the same reason I don’t want you to kiss me now.”
His eyes lit up with realization. “Alder.”
“Yes,” I said, pressing my lips into a hard line. He nodded once, conceding. “Is there something going on at the Diversion Dam tonight?” I asked, desperate to change the subject.
Weston leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
I crawled up next to him, and while looking up at the stars, we exchanged memories about grade school, how much we loathed Mrs. Turner, and everything else in our world with the exception of Erin Alderman.
“Are you going to miss high school? I mean, you must,” I said, shaking my head in amazement. “You’re like a god here.”
He laughed once; then his face crumbled. “The god of Hell is the devil. Not really much of a compliment.”
“Touché.” I let my legs swing back and forth, feeling the chilly spring breeze blow through the thin fabric of my pants. It was warm enough that the bugs were chirping and buzzing in the grass. I listened to their symphony, our own little private show.
We drank our pops, and Weston crunched them in his man hands and tossed them behind us. He helped me down and walked around to my side, opening the door. I climbed up and sat, and he looked up at me.
“You doing anything for Spring Break?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“My parents are going skiing with our church group. I was supposed to go to South Padre with Alder and Brady and pretty much the whole football team and cheer squad, but I’m going to back out.”
I frowned, confused.
Weston was clearly amused as he leaned his elbow on the bottom compartment of the door, looking up at me with his perfect, sweet smile. “I’m going to stay here.”
“Won’t your parents pitch a fit?”
“They’ll understand. Besides, I’m eighteen. Not really much they can do.”
“Alder won’t understand.”
“I’m not worried about it.”
I narrowed my eyes. “You’re going to leave me out of it, right?”
“Yes, Easter. I wouldn’t throw you under the bus like that.”
“I just feel like I should remind you that I’m moving away in a few months. I’m not crazy enough to think you’re doing all of this for me, but if even a small part of it . . .”
“What if I was? Doing all of this for you.”
“I would ask you why. Why all of a sudden are you so interested in me?”
“Who says it’s all of a sudden?”
I tried not to smile. The only things that kept my face smooth were my next words, and I said them with conviction. “Weston, you’re a nice guy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like you. But I’m getting the hell out of here.”
He shut the door and walked slowly to the driver’s side. He stood at his door for a full minute. When he finally sat in his seat and switched on the ignition, he had to speak up over the roaring of the Chevy’s glass packs. “So am I.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute? Like . . . not through this window?” Weston was pleading with his big emerald eyes. He’d been looking at me that way off and on for a week, in the hallway and in the classes we shared. I knew he wanted to say something to me, but things had been awkward between us since he dropped me off at my house several nights before.
I looked to Frankie. She pursed her lips and motioned for me to go to the back door.
“Yeah . . . yeah, you can uh . . . meet me in the back.”
I turned on my heels and made my way to the back, every muscle in my body tense from my face to my toes. I pushed open the door, and Weston stepped inside. We stood alone in the storage room, with harsh fluorescent lighting making me look as horrible as possible, surrounded by boxes of syrup and toppings, and the weird smell from the drain wafting in the air. He didn’t say anything at first, and my eyes drifted, targeting everything in the room except him, while I waited for him to speak.
“I’m a dick,” he said, his eyebrows pulling in.
“I’m worse than a dick. I’m a coward. I should have said something a long time ago. When you stood up to Erin, it just … gave me my balls back I guess. They’re so damn mean, and I didn’t want any of that directed at me, but . . . they’re girls. They’re teenage girls, and I’m ashamed that I’ve been too intimidated to say anything. Especially to Brady. What kind of ass**le lets an ass**le like that speak to a woman the way he speaks to you? I hated it. I’ve hated it for years, and I just tried to ignore it.”
I shook my head. Brady, Brendan, and the Erins had said a few things to me that week, but nothing out of the ordinary. I wasn’t sure what had Weston so riled up. “It’s okay. I don’t expect you to . . .”