Perfect Couple

Page 38


As these words were coming out of my mouth, I realized I was describing Brody when he made out with me, then ran back to Grace. I honestly hadn't made the connection earlier, but now it seemed embarrassingly obvious. And Brody must have been thinking I'd mentioned my dad specifically to make a point.
Brody watched me silently for a moment. He was quiet long enough that I believed he got my ugly unintentional message.
I laughed uncomfortably. "So, I'm the only minor in the state of Florida who actually wants her parents to get divorced."
If Brody had taken offense, he let it go. He moved on, because that's what Brody did. "I didn't want my parents to get divorced," he said. "I thought it was the end of the world."
"Yeah," I said gently.
"I don't miss my parents fighting, that's for sure," he said. "I miss my dad, though. I miss him so bad sometimes that it hurts, like, in my chest." He sat up and put one hand on his striped shirt, somewhere between his heart and his throat. Then he took a bite of vegetables, chewed, swallowed. Without looking up at me, he said, "We used to play a lot of football together."
"I'm sorry," I said.
He shrugged. "At first I thought it was so awful, but I can see how your parents' situation is worse because it's one-sided. At least my parents were both cheating on each other. My mom acts like it's a huge relief to be available again. Maybe your mom needs to date."
"She's in a serious, committed relationship with a bed and breakfast."
"Is that her only job?" Brody asked.
"Yeah, and it's full-time, when you count keeping up with the repairs. Actually, I think we'd be doing okay financially if it weren't for the two-year-long divorce. She might as well be standing on the front porch and tossing cash to the lawyers like Will throws treats to his dog. The dog. Whoever's dog it is."
Brody finished the last of his vegetables. He'd wolfed down his entire sandwich and had even vacuumed up any garnishes that might have been on his plate. I'd hardly touched my salad. I'd gotten lost in my own sad story. Vowing to act more sane and less troubled for the rest of dinner, I took another bite.
"My dad doesn't want me to go into any of the armed services because I won't be able to choose where I live," Brody said slowly. "But your dad never got moved. You've lived here forever."
Between bites I said, "We lived in Alaska when I was little."
"You did?" Brody sounded impressed. "No, we were in kindergarten together."
I was surprised Brody remembered me from kindergarten. I remembered him. He'd fallen from the top of the monkey bars and split open his chin. (Or he'd jumped. Two versions of the event circulated in the class. Now that I knew him better, I was more inclined to believe he'd jumped.) For the week he was out of school recovering, Chelsea and I had kept vigil for him over a big rock with his blood on it, even though the teacher pointed out that the rock was on the opposite end of the playground from the monkey bars. She assured us the blood was red paint from an art project the year before. That story wasn't as romantic.
I said, "We were in Alaska for a year right before I started kindergarten."
Brody's face lit up. "Did you love it?"
I wished I could tell him I had. "It was cold, and so big I got scared. I think I clung to Mom's skirts the whole time we were there."
Brody nodded. "I want to see it, but if I had to stay there, I'm sure I'd freeze to death." He leaned closer and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "I usually don't admit this, but you're good at keeping secrets, right?"
I grinned as he repeated what I'd said in the pavilion yesterday. He might not take a relationship with me seriously, but at least I knew he'd been listening.
"I've always been terrified of being voted Least Likely to Leave the Tampa/St. Petersburg Metropolitan Area," he said. "The class is passing judgment on the girl and the guy who win that election. But I really like it here."
"Me too," I said.
Brody took a sip of his iced tea, then said, "My dad is a smoke jumper."
"I'd heard that." And it hadn't surprised me at all. Brody Larson's dad went around the country, parachuting out of airplanes to fight forest fires? Knowing Brody, it made sense.
"He's not going to be able to do it much longer. He's pretty old already to make a living that way. His back bothers him. He'll have to retrain for a different job-a boring job. He says I need to find an exciting profession that I can still do when I'm older. I was thinking about law enforcement of one kind or another."
"Perfect!" I exclaimed, and I meant it. "I can see you kicking in doors for fun and profit."
"Yeah." He grinned at the thought. "Well, speaking of high drama and nonstop action, why don't we take this Superlatives photo?"
I set my camera bag on the table. "I guess . . . should I come over there?" The restaurant was behind me, including the windows onto the street, which would glow in the picture and likely ruin the light. Brody's back was to the wall hung with tangled lights and a carved wooden mermaid. Everyone seeing this photo in the yearbook would know exactly where Brody and I had taken it.
"Be my guest," he said, scooting toward the corner. But the seat had room for only one person.

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