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“Yep.” I waited. “And?”

He frowned as he thought. Apparently he had fewer words to let flow. “Shooting hoops with Anders.”

Thus he had his body and I had my body, and never the two shall meet. Sad but true. “Things besides sports?”

“Movies are okay. Action, horror, stuff like that.”

“Yes, agreed. What else?”

Quiet descended while he thought. Bugs, night birds, and the breeze shaking the trees took over. Finally, he gave a long sigh. “Honestly, I spent most of my time selling weed.”

And hooking up with cheerleaders, I silently added, because jealous bitch, etcetera. “You need a new non-illegal hobby.”

“Yeah.” His eyes narrowed on the heavens. “Bet that clerk from the tech college had plans. There were hundreds of people at his funeral. I saw his girlfriend; she was devastated.”

“You went to the funeral?”

He nodded. “Seemed like the right thing to do.”

“I was taking it easy with cracked ribs and stuff.” I frowned, unsure I’d have had the courage to go even if I’d been able.

Overhead, the moon did nothing. It was dependable in that way, circling the sky all nonjudgmental like, just doing its thing. Me and the moon were great friends, especially now. It kept me company during the long, awful nights. The moon kept my secrets, telling no one how many times I woke up in a panic, covered in a cold sweat.

“What are your nightmares like?” I asked.

He turned to me, eyes dark. He didn’t speak.

“I don’t want to sleep anymore.”

A nod.

“Think of all the time we lose sleeping anyway,” I said. “It’s a waste. I mean, I love my bed, but I could do without the dreams.”

Nothing from him.

“Thanks for tonight,” I said, keeping my voice low. “This is nice.”

He smiled. “Yeah, it is.”

“We should be friends.”

Brows arched, he gave me an amused look. He had nice lips. “We are, you goose.”

And John Cole teasing me, that felt damn good too. Another feeling, however, suddenly came front and center. “God, I’m hungry.”

We went to In-and-Out Burger before he dropped me home. Even without the high, talking to him now after everything felt easy, soothing. He understood because he’d lived through it too. Was still living through it. I even got to sleep without too much tossing and turning. Best night of my life.

 

 

Sunday night . . .

 

Me: You awake?

 

My cell buzzed a minute later. “Hello?”

“Hey,” he said in a low voice. “How you doing?”

“Good. How about you? What are you up to?”

“Just give me a second.” In the background, a girl asked John who he was talking to. Guess that answered that question. He mumbled something and I heard rustling, followed by the closing of a door. Eventually, he sighed. “Sorry ’bout that.”

“No problem.” I’d interrupted his Netflix and sex session. Awesome. Go, me.

“What’d you do today?”

“Ah, I hung out with my mom. Tried to do some studying, the usual. What about you?”

“Did some work on my car. Read Catcher in the Rye.”

I snorted. “What’d you think of it?”

“Thought you were a bit harsh about it, to be honest.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Though the heart of my loud, embarrassing, and irrational rant was more fear over what idiots have done in the book’s name.”

“Can’t really blame the book for that.”

“I suppose not.” I hummed. “Apparently, it’s a trigger book for me. Because I have triggers now . . .”

“Probably to be expected.”

Silence.

“Bad dreams again?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“The one where you’re flying, but can’t get high enough to get out of trouble? Or the one where you die instead of Isaac?”

Crap. “I told you too much last Friday.”

A soft chuckle. “You’re safe with me. I get it, okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, more to be polite than anything. Exposing what a hot mess I was to this cool, beautiful boy. How much more insane could I get?

A pause. “I keep waking up, hearing the gunshot, thinking the bullet’s got me in the chest this time instead of just winging me.”

“God. That’s horrible.”

Silence.

“I keep smelling blood, even when there is none,” I said.

His laughter sounded entirely without joy. “I was never great with blood. Now . . . it fucks me up a little.”

“How long do you think it takes to get past this sort of thing?”

“I don’t know if you do.” He sounded down and a little lost. A lot like how I felt. There came a click, followed by him breathing in and out real deep. Smoking. “Can’t imagine forgetting it.”

“Guess it just becomes a part of you. You get used to it.”

I lay on my back on the bed, staring out at the night sky. Deep thoughts. Deep, pointless middle-of-the-night thoughts of life and death and pain and dismemberment. “I forgot to say, thanks for turning up to school Monday morning. You really did me a solid.”

“How’s that?”

“You took the attention off me being the new girl.”

“Ha. You’re welcome,” he said.

“I owe you one. If you run into trouble with any English assignments, I’ll help, okay?”

For a moment there was no reply, and I wasn’t sure if he was still there.

“John?”

“Okay, deal.” His voice sounded cautious. “Math, I’m fine. But if they start in on poetry or shit like that . . .”

“Understood.” I laughed. “You get numbers? I’ve never known what to do with them. Numbers and I are not friends.”

“We’ll trade.” Another heavy exhale. “I’m serious, Edie.”

“Okay.” I smiled and then stopped. “Oh. Under the weird requests category, I was wondering, would you visit the guys’ graves with me sometime? You don’t have to. It was just a thought.”

“Yeah, that’s . . . we can do that. Tomorrow night work for you?”

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