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Taking away those boundaries made things pretty damn scary.

“Do you have a condom?”

I nodded as we both looked down at her hand inching down my zipper. If she didn’t hurry up, we weren’t going to need the condom.

“Are you sure your parents won’t be back before we’re done?”

Thirty seconds. A minute tops if I didn’t breathe and if I could get my mind to focus on death instead of the anticipation of seeing Daisy naked.

“Yeah.”

She glanced up. “Yeah they will or yeah they won’t?”

I kissed her hard, not like two kids making out. I kissed her with purpose and urgency. My hands touched her over the material of the black dress she wore to my uncle’s funeral that day. We were too young to know what we were doing. Self-doubt crept in in a way it hadn’t done before.

Was I touching her the right way?

Was I touching her in the right spot?

Was she scared?

Would she like it?

Would it hurt?

Would there be blood?

The most pressing question that danced in my head at that moment was would I come before I ever got inside of her?

I unzipped the back of her dress. She stiffened.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered after breaking our kiss.

“Nothing.” She kissed my neck to cover up the lie.

Nothing didn’t shake like a leaf.

Nothing didn’t hold its arms close to its body to keep the dress from falling off.

“We don’t have to do this.”

She shook her head. “I want to. It’s just …”

I pulled back to see her face. We were half committed to doing it. My shirt still hung from my arms and my pants clung to my hips, but just barely. Her dress made an attempt to fall off, but she hugged her arms to her chest to keep it in place. I imagined impatient hands tearing off clothes and naked bodies crashing together in a frenzy of desire. Apparently that only happened in movies or with adults who knew what they were doing.

“It’s just what?”

Daisy grimaced. “What if your parents do come home early? Or what if the condom breaks? Or what if I bleed and it gets on your sheets and your mom sees it? Or what if—”

“Or what if we just don’t do it tonight.” I wanted it. Boy did I ever want it in the most painfully-aroused, heart-pounding, dick-ready-to-explode way.

“Maybe we should think it through some more.”

I nodded. Thinking it through wasn’t going to change anything. I was certain none of my friends had thought it through before losing their virginity. There was no intelligent, well-thought-out reason for two fifteen-year-olds to have sex. If we didn’t do it out of stupidity and out-of-control hormones, then we weren’t going to do it for a very long time.

“Another night?” she said with a vulnerable smile.

“Another night.” I nodded while trying to give her a reassuring expression.

We put our clothes back on in awkward silence, sneaking the occasional peek which accompanied a guilty grin. And to prove God did exist and he was looking out for us, just as I buttoned the last button of my shirt, my newly-reconciled parents came home early.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

It’s been five days since I’ve seen Griffin, a record for our relationship. This is not the kind of record I’m trying to set. He’s been busy. I’ve been busy. His late-night invites to come stay with him or for him to come stay with me have been rejected by me. My head is all over the place. This obsession with Nate and his past requires nonstop thought. I haven’t slept well in weeks.

My appointment with my doctor goes well. He doesn’t find any urgency to have a CT scan or MRI, but given my symptoms and Griffin’s concerns, he agrees to order some more tests for next week. The money my mom shared from my dad’s life insurance is dwindling, thanks to counseling and other medical expenses.

After my appointment, I accept Nate’s offer to give me the whole day off. My apartment needs deep cleaning, my fridge needs restocking, and I could use a night out with someone who doesn’t know anything about my messed-up brain. So I invite Erica out for drinks.

As I finish applying my makeup, my phone rings.

“Hey, Griff.”

“Hey, stranger.”

I chuckle, but deep down I feel guilty for avoiding him this past week.

“I’ve been waiting for you to call, but I’m running out of patience.”

“Sorry, Griff, but you’d be proud of me. I went to the doctor today and he’s set up some more tests for next week, but he didn’t seem too concerned. He actually suggested I go back to seeing Dr. Greyson. And … I took the rest of the day off, cleaned my apartment, and went grocery shopping.”

“Sounds exciting. So where are we going tonight? My mom wants us to stop by later, but we don’t have to stay long.”

I hold still and talk slowly with him on speakerphone while I apply my mascara. “Can’t tonight. But I don’t work tomorrow so we can do whatever you want.”

He laughs. It’s an odd laugh, a little disbelieving. “What do you mean you can’t?”

“I’m going out with Erica tonight. I think I need some girl time to just get out of my head for a few hours. You know what I mean?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

I frown at my phone and the agitated voice speaking from it. “Wow, nice attitude. What crawled up your butt and died today?”

Silence fills the bathroom, I glance down to see if we’ve been disconnected. “Griff?”

He clears his throat. “Have fun with Erica. Don’t worry about tomorrow. I’m busy. In fact … I’m going to be busy for quite some time.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

No answer.

When I look down again at my phone on the vanity, the call has been disconnected. I try calling him back. He doesn’t answer.

After tossing my makeup back in its bag, I shoot off a quick text to Griffin. Erica should be knocking on my door any minute, so I don’t have time to get into a big argument over his bruised ego.

Swayze: Don’t be this way. It’s one night. I don’t see the big deal. I’ll call you tomorrow.

After pressing send, I stare at my phone. The message changes from delivered to read, but no three dots appear on my screen. He’s not responding. With two soft knocks at my door, I don’t have time to fret over it.

We call for a car instead of driving. Three bars later, I have a nice buzz going. It’s the best I’ve felt all week.

“Has he texted back yet?” Erica asks as I check my phone for the hundredth time.

“No.” I frown.

“Men are such babies.” She shakes her head while bringing her wine glass to her mouth. “Even the hot ones.”

“I just don’t understand it. I mean … yeah, I’ve been a little distant this week, but it’s one freakin’ night. I promised him all day tomorrow, which he knows will turn into all day on Sunday.”

She eyes some guy a few tables over. He’s giving her the same look. With one look, I feel like an outsider.

“Maybe you should make a bootie call. Guys like that,” Erica says while eye-fucking the dude behind me.

“Why do I get the impression you’re trying to ditch me?”

Her gaze meets mine again. “I would never do that unless it had been a long time since I’d had really good sex.”

“The blind date?” I ask.

“I faked an illness to get out of the date before the end of dinner.”

I laugh. “So basically you’re saying it’s been a really long time?”

Erica nods, returning her attention to Mr. Neatly-Trimmed Beard behind me.

“Fine then. I’ll just check my notifications since I’ve lost your attention.”

She doesn’t respond.

I click on my phone. There’s still no text or calls from Griffin, but I have a dozen different social media notifications, most of them are from Griffin’s sisters from a couple of hours earlier. I click on Instagram.

“Oh my god …” I can’t even breathe as a million emotions course through my body and sting my eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Erica acknowledges me this time.

“Oh my god …”

“Jeez, Swayze, what is it?”

I am the worst person on the face of the earth, and the cringe on Erica’s face when I show her my phone confirms it. Griffin’s sisters have pictures posted of him blowing out candles on a birthday cake at his parents’ house.

“You forgot his birthday?”

What little buzz I had a few seconds ago is gone. I’m feeling everything right now, and it’s so fucking painful I can’t even speak.

“How is that possible?” Erica continues to prod.

She doesn’t know anything about my memories of Nate. She doesn’t know how little sleep I’ve had. So I go with the only truth I can find that might work as some sort of explanation. “My life has been crazy. And we haven’t been together for that long. I just didn’t have his birthday in my mind or…” I shake my head “…I don’t know, I just didn’t pay attention to the date today.”

“Your phone. How did you not have it in your phone?”

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