“AND WHAT IS THIS?”
Jay and I broke apart from our kiss to find Hayley standing in the doorway. She stood looking young and attractive in her black-and-gold flight attendant uniform, glaring at us.
Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a severe bun that only accentuated her high cheekbones and big dark eyes. Hayley was really pretty and I’d been told I looked a lot like her. Except for the eyes. I had his eyes. People told me all the time how amazing my eyes were. I would have given anything for Hayley’s eyes.
I knew without a doubt that my looks were one of the reasons Jay James couldn’t quite give up on trying to get into my pants. Not that I was cynical or anything.
Jay was a year older than me, smart, but a total bad boy. Tattoos, check. Piercings, check. Motorcycle, check. Every girl in my school wanted a piece of him and for whatever reason he liked me.
We had been making out on my couch for about ten minutes. Jay had nice lips and I’d hoped that when he kissed me I’d feel something other than the wet touch of mouth and tongue against mouth and tongue.
The romance novels I’d found stashed in Hayley’s closet said I was supposed to feel all hot and tingly.
Kissing was supposed to be exciting.
I didn’t find it all that exciting. “Nice” was about as good as kissing had gotten for me. And as always my mind wandered due to the lack of excitement. This time it had wandered to Hayley. She was up to something. I knew it. As a flight attendant she was away a lot, but her trips were longer than usual. She was also acting weird and shifty, hiding her phone from me when it buzzed with a notification, and having whispered conversations in her bedroom. Somethingwas up. I just hoped that something wasn’t a guy.
It was like my wayward thoughts had conjured her.
“This is Jay,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest in defiance at the stern look on her face. I hated when she acted like she gave a crap.
“I don’t care who he is.” Hayley tried to fry his ass with her eyes. “You can leave.”
Jay stared back at her with as much defiance as I did, making me like him more. He turned to me and pressed a slow, intimate kiss to the corner of my mouth. “See you at school, babe.”
He laughed at the mischief in my eyes.
I waited until he’d brushed by Hayley without a word and I heard the front door close behind him. “Nice. Thanks.”
Hayley’s dark eyes narrowed into slits. “Don’t talk to me like that. I’m tired, it’s been a long day and now I come home and find my daughter being mauled by some walking hormone. Am I supposed to be happy that you’re dating some guy who looks like he’s seen the inside of prison more than once?”
“We’re not dating. We’re just fooling around.”
“Oh, well, then, why am I so upset?” She threw her hands up in exasperation.
She flinched, like she always flinched when I called her by her name (so she flinched a lot). “Don’t ‘Hayley’ me. I have a right to be upset about this.”
“Don’t be. I’m not serious about him. And I’m not getting pregnant. Anyway, you’re home early.”
“They put me on a shorter flight.” She dumped her purse on the couch as she moved farther into the room. “We’ll discuss Jay later. I need to tell you something.”
I tensed. “Yeah?”
She stared pensively at me for a few seconds before finally taking a seat by my side. “I’ve met someone.”
Dread instantly filled me.
Scrutinizing me for a reaction and getting none, Hayley smiled reassuringly. “He’s wonderful. His name is Theo and he has a daughter who’s actually your age. He lives in
Boston. We met on one of my flights out there.”
My stomach churned. “How long?”
“Several months ago.”
“I knew something was going on,” I muttered.
“I’m sorry I kept it from you for so long… I just wanted to make sure it was real between us.”
“And is it?”
“Very much so. We’ve fallen in love.”
“That’s some long-distance relationship.”
“I stay with him when I fly out there. I see him as often as possible.”
I snorted. “And you think he’s faithful all the times you’re not around?”
“Don’t.” She cut a hand through the air. “Those are your trust issues, India. Not mine.”
My blood boiled with indignation. She was completely naive if she thought for one second this guy wasn’t a loser. She had chosen badly before, after all. I had a right to the dread that was making me feel sick.
“I just wanted to give you a heads-up that it’s serious.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means that if this is going where I think it’s going, then that might mean a big life change for us.”
I stared at her in horror.
Hayley sighed wearily at the expression I wasn’t even trying to conceal. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. I’m tired so we’ll talk about Jay another time.” She turned but then stopped to stare sadly at me. “Thanks for being so happy for me, by the way.”
That didn’t even deserve a response.
There was a time Hayley couldn’t give a damn about my happiness. I felt it only fair that I feel apathetic now about hers.
“So wait, what does that mean?” Anna stared at me with big round eyes. “Are you, like, moving to Boston?”
Thursday. Days after Hayley dropped her bombshell that included a possible “big life change for us.” She’d left for Boston on Tuesday, and I’d barely heard from her. This lack of communication had finally made me tell Anna what was going on.
I leaned against my locker, glaring at the opposite wall. Unfortunately, said locker was situated right next to the guys’ bathroom, which meant enduring Eau de Teenage
Turd every day. “I have no idea.”
“That’s what she meant, though, right?”
“Why aren’t you freaking out more?” She stood directly in front of me now, hands on her hips as she glared up at me.
“I’m freaking out!” She flapped her arms around. “Freak out with me!”
“Why are you freaking out?” Siobhan said as she, Kiersten and Tess stopped by my locker. “Is it because Leanne Ingles looks like a walking thrift store today?” she called out loud enough for Leanne Ingles to hear as she passed us.
I watched Leanne turn bright red and felt my blood heat.
“Don’t be a bitch,” I snapped at Siobhan.
“I’m just saying, terrible dress, ugly mess.”
“You were being horrible.” And it was hardly the first time. If it were up to Siobhan she’d rule the school with terror and meanness.
“Whatever.” She sighed. “Why are you freaking out, Anna? And why are you doing it in front of India’s locker?
This whole area should be quarantined.” She wrinkled her nose at the bathroom doors.
“Lunch,” I stated firmly before pushing off my locker door. I strode away, knowing they’d follow.
I heard their footsteps and suddenly I had Anna on my right, Siobhan on my left and Kiersten and Tess right at my back.
“So?” Siobhan nudged me with her elbow. “What is Anna flipping out over?”
“India’s mom might be moving them to Boston!”
The girls shot me stunned looks at Anna’s outburst, but I ignored them as I also tried to ignore the swarm of butterflies in my stomach.
“Boston?” Siobhan gasped. “No. Ugh.”
Siobhan was a California girl. As far as she was concerned there was sunny CA and then there was the rest of the world. I almost grinned at her disgust.
“You’ll so lose your tan,” Tess said sympathetically.
I glanced at her over my shoulder. “And that’s my biggest concern?”
“No, her biggest concern is Jay,” Kiersten insisted. “You can’t leave Jay. He’s totally in love with you.”
I wanted to roll my eyes at the fairy tale Kiersten had obviously been weaving in her head these last few weeks.
“No, he’s not.” I shook my head and looked forward. “And that’s not my biggest concern, either.”
“Her biggest concern is leaving me,” Anna huffed.
Actually, the answer was none of the above. The truth was my biggest concern was the dude we would be moving to Boston for. But Anna was definitely up there, too. If there was anyone in my life that I truly cared about, it was her. I had lied to her about my past, I had kept my secrets and I didn’t really tell her what was going on in my head most of the time, but I gave her more of me than I gave to anyone else. It didn’t bother her, either. Our friendship was based on the fact that she trusted me. I’m a vault. Anna knew she could tell me anything without fear that I’d gossip about it. I had seen her through her parents’ really freaking messed-up divorce and the fallout—she had sex for the first time when she was only fourteen and she was too young. It was a difficult time for her and I was there. Not judging her. Just being there.
It meant a lot to her.
She’d be sad if I left her.
I’d worry about her without me.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I told her, wishing I felt as confident as I sounded.
“Hey, India.” A group of juniors waved as they headed into the caf.
I threw them a smile and followed them in.
“Remember we have our first dance committee meeting this afternoon,” I reminded the girls. “We have to start planning Winter Formal.”
“I don’t even see the point in organizing the vote for Winter Snow Queen this year. We all know you’re going to win.” Kiersten’s voice held more than a hint of envy.
I shrugged, but I couldn’t argue. There was more than a passing possibility that my classmates would vote to make me queen.
If there was one thing I’d mastered more than any of my classes, it was the art of being well-liked. I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t snooty, I didn’t judge people and I had the ability to hide how different I felt from everybody else. I made an effort and I tried to be friends with people from all cliques.
I was on the school newspaper. I was on the debate team. I was on the girls’ soccer team. I was the theater manager.
I was really, really busy.
And that was just the way I liked it. Needed it actually. Being popular wasn’t about the attention. It was about the control it gave me. It was much harder to be hurt, and much harder to lose the game, when I held all the right cards. I was the most popular girl in junior year, and if Hayley didn’t ruin everything by moving us to the east coast, I’d be ruling the school next year.
After standing in line for food that resembled something a cat might throw up we settled down at our usual table.
“Is someone going to fill me in on the whole Boston thing?” Siobhan asked, a gleam in her eyes.
Siobhan was captain of the girls’ soccer team, pretty, smart and rich. As far as she was concerned I was sitting in her seat. I bet she was secretly thrilled I might be taking off for Boston.
“Hayley met someone there. It might be serious.”
“That sucks. Sorry,” Tess said.
“Hey, it’s Hayley. They’ll probably break up in a week.”
“Seriously, if you move to Boston I’m moving with you.”
Anna’s expression was glum as she stared at her sandwich.
“Eat.” I nudged her elbow.
“You and food.” She sighed but picked up the sandwich.
I bit into my own and stared around the cafeteria, drinking it all in. I really hoped this time next year I’d still be sitting right where I was now.
In life’s driver’s seat.
As if Hayley heard my inner longing, my phone buzzed in my pocket, and when I pulled it out there was a text from her.
I need you home after school. We need to talk. xx
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