Page 69

Thia gasped. “Clint Eastwood? You have a Clint Eastwood tattoo?” She covered her mouth with her hand. “I mean I’ve seen you without your shirt on and I knew that was a portrait but I didn’t realize it was actually Clint Eastwood.”

I pulled my shirt back down and took a drag of my cigarette. “Laugh all you want, Ti. C.E. was Chuck Norris before there was a Chuck Norris.”

“Oh my god please don’t tell me you have a Chuck Norris tattoo,” she said, grabbing her stomach and continuing to laugh at my expense.

I loved that sound.

I would remember that sound.

“What’s wrong with a Chuck Norris tattoo?” I deadpanned.

“Oh, I didn’t mean. He’s ummm…” I burst out laughing as she tried to backtrack.

I could have let her struggle a little while longer, she looked adorable when she was all flustered, but I was having trouble keeping a straight face. “I’m just fucking with you,” I finally said.

She let out a sigh of relief. “Oh thank god. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of that one.”

“Okay, so now you know my favorite, so what’s yours? Same category.”

Thia smiled so big and brightly I thought her mouth was about to swallow her face. “I have two.”

“And…?” I pressed.

“Scarface and The Godfather.”

I laughed more that day than I had in the last twenty-seven years, all because of the girl with the crazy pink hair.

The girl I’d fallen in love with.

Fuck.

“You’re different, Ti,” I said, when we’d both recovered enough to speak again. “But I’ve known that since the day I met you.”

“You mean the day your friend held a gun on me,” she corrected.

“Yes, I mean the day the little kid version of you almost took out a biker seven times your size,” I said.

“Well, serves him right. He shouldn’t have been trying to rob a kid,” she argued.

“Technically, he was trying to rob a store, not a kid,” I countered.

She shot me a look that said ‘oh please.’ “So you’re saying that if it was Emma May at the counter it would’ve somehow ended things better? Because I can tell you right now, it wouldn’t have been a lick better for Skid or Skud or Skuzz or whatever his name was, because Emma May is a shoot-first, don’t-care-about-asking-questions kind of old lady. Just ask her first husband.” She scratched her chin and wrinkled her nose. “Or her fourth…”

The way Thia talked with her hands, reminded me of a character you would find in a comic book.

One with really, really nice tits.

“See what I mean?” I pointed out. “I’ve never heard anyone say the kind of shit you say. You’re just…different.”

“Different,” she said the word slowly like she was examining it, turning it over on her tongue. She twirled a strand of her hair around in her fingers. “Isn’t different just a nicer word for bat-shit-crazy?” she asked, her face serious.

She looked down at her feet.

I reached over and lifted up her chin so she could look at me.

So she could SEE me.

“No, I said different and that’s exactly what I meant. In my world that’s a good thing. No, that’s a fucking GREAT thing. You ain’t like other girls, certainly nothing like the BBB’s.” When Ti wrinkled her nose in confusion I filled her in. “Beach Bastard Bitches, club whores,” I clarified. “When I’m positive you’re going to react one way to something, you keep surprising me by doing the complete opposite and I’m a hard man to surprise,” I said, stubbing out my cigarette on the bottom of my boot.

“I bet you tell all the girls they’re different. Bet that line’s worked a thousand times.” Ti pulled her chin away and stared down at the table, picking at the old red paint that had bubbled up on the surface. There was a hint of jealousy that crept into her question, and if it had come out of anyone else’s mouth I’d probably already ended the conversation and left the second she asked it. But it didn’t come from anyone else.

It came from Thia.

It was…cute.

I could have lied to her and said she was the only girl I’d ever said that to, but there was already a lingering lie between us, or rather an omission of truth on my part, and I didn’t want to add to the growing pile. “There was a girl, just one other. She was different, but not in the same way you were. I thought she could be different for me too.” I admitted out loud for the first time, remembering the sting of pain I felt when I saw King and Ray fucking up against the pillar under the house the night I tried to make her mine, and failed.

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