I’m trembling as I pour my coffee. “I’m only going to tell you this once,” I say, and my voice is as shaky as my hands. “I am not involved with Eric again, and I never will be. He still calls me sometimes, usually to hit me up for money.”
I turn to face my father. His expression is harder than stone.
“I gave him money, one time,” I admit. “And then I realized it would become a habit, so I never did it again. He doesn’t phone that much anymore, maybe a couple times a year. Last night when he called me up, crying and scared because he didn’t know where he was…forgive me if it makes me a reckless fool that I didn’t want somebody I used to love to die in the fucking street.”
“Brenna,” Dad starts gruffly.
“Just…” He blows out a ragged breath. “Tell me who you’re staying with next time you’re out all night. Don’t make me worry like that again.”
Then he leaves the kitchen.
JAKE: You ok?
* * *
ME: Yes and no. Dad’s gone back to ignoring me, so I assume he’s gotten over it. Heading to Summer’s now for girls night.
* * *
JAKE: Fuck ya. Film it for me.
* * *
ME: What do you think happens at girls night?
* * *
JAKE: Naked stuff, obviously. Pillow fights. Kissing practice. Actually, wait, forget that. We’re in college. You’re teaching each other how to eat pussy.
* * *
ME: Yes that’s exactly what we do. You’re such a pervert.
* * *
JAKE: Yup. Anyway, I’ll call you later.
* * *
ME: You don’t have to do that.
* * *
JAKE: I know I don’t have to. I want to.
I bite my lip to stop from smiling at my phone. But I can’t stop the warm, fuzzy sensation in my belly. Last night started out so awful, and ended up so…not awful.
I still can’t believe I slept with Jake. Figuratively and literally. I had sex with him and then I fell asleep wrapped up in his strong arms. I’m in trouble. I think I really like this guy, and I don’t know who I can talk to about it. Summer would tell Fitz in a heartbeat, and Audrey and Elisa suck at keeping secrets.
As I’m approaching Summer’s house, my landlord Wendy sends an update about the basement.
WENDY: Basement’s still not ready. Maybe another week, possibly less. We found mold growth in the utility room, and we’re working to contain it. For now, I need you to send me a complete inventory of what you lost in the flood. We’re filing the insurance claim this week.
* * *
ME: I’ll send it later. And please tell the mold guys to hurry up! I can’t live with my dad anymore.
* * *
WENDY: LOL the idea of living with my parents again makes me want to die.
* * *
ME: Exactly. Hurry!
* * *
WENDY: We’ll do our best :)
I put my phone away and enter the house without knocking. The high-pitched giggles in the living room tell me that the girls are already here. I find Summer on the couch with Audrey. Summer’s friend Daphne is curled up in the armchair, and rounding out the group is a face I haven’t seen since the morning at the diner. Rupi Miller. AKA, Hollis’s stalker-slash-girlfriend.
“Brenna!” Rupi says happily. She’s on the floor lounging on an oversized pillow and wearing a similar outfit to what she had on at the diner. A light-blue, A-line dress with a lacy collar, black tights, and two sparkly barrettes in her raven hair. She looks cute and prim, and the blue shade of her dress goes amazing with her skin tone.
“Come sit with me,” she urges. “Also, you look gorgeous! Guys, how gorgeous does she look? I can’t believe your skin—it’s so luminous. What do you use for it? On mine I use a homemade mask that my mom told me about. That’s how I get my pinkish hue. It’s—”
“I’m going to grab a drink,” I interrupt.
Rupi is still chattering as I leave the room. I don’t even know who she’s talking to anymore. Maybe herself?
Summer trails after me into the kitchen. “Holy moly, Bee, that girl can talk. And I thought I was a blabbermouth.”
“You are and so is she. Two blabbermouths can exist in the same realm, babes. It’s not like Highlander.”
“What’s Highlander? I haven’t seen it. Is that the one where the woman travels back in time?”
“No, that’s Outlander. Which, by the way, we absolutely need to watch because the leading man is smoking hot.”
“Oooh! All right. Let’s do it after the semester ends.”
As I pour myself a glass of water, Summer raises her eyebrows. “It’s girls’ night,” she reminds me. “We’re drinking margaritas.”
“I’m hydrating first. I’ve barely had anything to drink today. I was holed up in my room working on my final paper for Comm Theory.”
When we wander back into the living room, Rupi is still gushing about her homemade face mask. “It’s just chickpea flour and yogurt, and I swear it is the best exfoliant ever. You’ll be glowing after.”
Audrey and Daphne are hanging on her every word. “I’m officially intrigued,” Daphne says. “I’m always on the hunt for a good exfoliator. My skin is garbage lately.”
“We should do it now,” Audrey suggests. “Do you have chickpea flour and yogurt?”
Summer dons a blank look. “I have no idea.”
“Let’s go check.” Rupi races toward the kitchen with Audrey and Daphne hot on her heels.
I watch them go. “Did they just become best friends?”
“I think they did.”
“Are she and Hollis actually a thing?” I ask as I steal Daphne’s spot. I settle in the armchair and curl my legs under me.
“I have no idea. It’s the strangest relationship I’ve ever seen.” Summer lowers her voice. “She’s either screaming at him or he’s screaming at her. Otherwise, they’re making out.”
I bite my lip to keep from laughing. “If you think about it, that’s exactly the kind of relationship I would expect Hollis to be in.”
“Me too. But it’s so weird.”
“Exactly, like him.”
Summer smirks. “Says the person who made out with him.”
“So? You’ve never made out with a weirdo before?”
“You made out with Mike?” Rupi appears in the doorway, jaw agape.
For a second, I debate lying to the girl, until I realize how ridiculous that is. Who cares if I kissed Hollis? Besides, it’s not like he cheated on her with me. “I did,” I confirm. “But you don’t need to—”
“Ha!” she interrupts, her brown eyes twinkling. “I totally knew! Mike tells me everything.”
“And don’t worry, I’m not mad at you,” Rupi assures me.
“I wouldn’t have cared if you were.”
“Ha, you’re so funny.” She giggles, then asks Summer a yogurt-related question before darting into the kitchen.
“I wasn’t joking,” I tell Summer. “I wouldn’t have given a shit if she was mad.”
She snorts. “I know.”
My phone vibrates, and I commit a girls’ night faux pas by checking it.
JAKE: How’s it goin’ over there? Have you had a girl-on-girl orgasm yet?
* * *
ME: Not yet. So bummed.
* * *
JAKE: Not as bummed as I am.
Detective Di Laurentis is instantly on the case. “Who are you texting with?”
“Don’t say nobody. You literally just texted somebody.” Her green eyes light up. “Are you still secretly dating that Harvard guy?”
I almost blurt out how did you know before I realize she’s referring to McCarthy, not Jake.
“We were never dating,” I answer with a shrug. “We just hooked up a few times.” I hurry on when I see her opening her mouth. “That was Nate, okay? Relax.”
“Ugh. Say hi to him.” She looks disappointed that she hadn’t stumbled upon a major scoop.
If she only knew.
The other girls come back. Rupi is holding a plastic bowl full of a beige-colored mixture. She quickly teaches everyone how to put it on. “Are you wearing any makeup?” she asks me.
Daphne glares at me. “Are you messing with us? You’re really not wearing makeup? Not even concealer?”
“How does your skin look so good?”
“Genetics?” I offer.
“I hate you,” Daphne says frankly.
Under Rupi’s sharp eye, we all start slathering the weird yogurt concoction on our faces. “How long do we leave it on for?” Summer asks.
“Until it dries. No longer than ten minutes, though.” Rupi flops down on her pillow throne near my feet.
From the armchair, I grin down at her. “So what’s the deal with you and Hollis? Are you together now?”
“Of course we are.” She stares at me like I’m from a different planet. “We were together after our first date.”
“Does he know that?” Summer asks in amusement.
“Of course he does.”