Perfect Couple

Page 52


"O-kay, use it."
As the openmouthed kiss began, I hung on to his shirt with both fists, bracing myself until it was over. Quickly I found myself saying, "Mm," and kissing him back. Tia and other girls Sawyer had been with said he was worth the trouble. Now I knew why. I leaned forward.
We both jumped at a knocking on the driver's-side window. Brody, taller than the truck, glowered at us through the glass.
Sawyer reached toward the door.
"No," I said, putting a hand on Sawyer's arm. I could tell he was about to desert me.
"Sorry," he said. "My man is serious." He cranked the window down and asked Brody, "May I help you?"
"Yes, please," Brody said in the same polite tone with a threat underneath. "I would like to talk to Harper alone for a minute."
"Sure," Sawyer told him, "if I can 'talk' to Grace alone for a minute." He made finger quotes.
"If you can catch her," Brody said.
We all looked toward Brody's truck. It was empty. I could barely see Grace in the darkness, leaning through another truck's window. She opened the door and got inside. The truck roared off.
Brody looked back at us with his brows raised like Grace's departure vindicated him.
Sawyer rubbed my nape and told Brody, "Listen. This here's my girl."
He meant, I thought, that we were friends, and he was looking out for me. I'd never viewed Sawyer as anything more than an entertaining basket case, but he was standing up for me.
"Got it," Brody said.
"Seriously, Larson," Sawyer said. "Even Will thinks this business is shocking."
"O-kay," Brody said, ticked off now.
Sawyer turned to me. "Go," he said. "I'll wait here for you."
I GOT OUT AND FOLLOWED Brody to his truck. He started to open the door for me, but I shook my head. I wasn't going to sit where Grace had just been sitting, like I was her temporary replacement. I leaned against the hood. He leaned beside me.
He swallowed audibly. "I felt bad about leaving with her as soon as I did it."
"Congratulations," I said. "You know what would have been better? If you'd felt bad about it before you did it."
He nodded. His nearly dry curls moved against his neck. He said, "I really wasn't trying to get together with her again, because we really were never together in the first place."
Suddenly I was back at school, one week ago, lamenting my boring high school experience. This was my foray into the high school party lifestyle? Cross-eyed from lack of sleep, head over heels in lust, and resentful of my gorgeous boyfriend for cheating on me while he claimed he hadn't been cheating?
I stood back, closed my eyes, and put my hands in my hair-something I hadn't done for years, ever since I got on my careful-coif kick . I murmured, "This is some dumb shit."
"Harper," he said. "Are you okay? You're blinking like you can't keep your eyes open."
"I think . . . I've never worn my contacts this long."
"Do you have a case for them, and solution, like I told you?"
"In my purse."
"In Sawyer's truck?"
"No, in Will's car." I gestured vaguely to the Mustang, which had prowled to a position near both trucks so that Will and Tia could watch the show.
Brody hiked across the parking lot to the Mustang. The driver's door opened. I could hear them talking, but not what they were saying. Then came Brody's echoing shout. Everyone sitting on tailgates turned to look: ". . . shocking? What did you say that to her for, Will?" Will's voice was firm. Tia's rose above it: "This is Harper we're talking about, Brody. Harper Davis. You can't do this to Harper."
Brody returned across the asphalt, carrying my purse but not my laptop or camera bag. "Get in the truck, Harper. You're about to fall down."
I shook my head. "Only if I can sit in the driver's seat."
"Fine." He rounded the truck and opened the driver's door for me. It was my first time inside Brody's truck, where Grace and countless other girls had had all sorts of experiences I'd thought I wanted. I sniffed deeply, trying to detect perfume, but all I smelled was cleaner.
He got in the passenger side and closed the door, then offered me my purse. I dug out the contact solution. He held the case for me while I took out the lenses. Then he put everything back in my purse. My dad had made this sort of sweet gesture toward Mom, too, after he'd started a new affair and she'd caught him.
"I see where you're coming from now," I said. "On Wednesday night, you told me you didn't have to break up with Grace in order to go out with me, because you weren't with Grace."
"Right," he said warily.
"I assumed that, afterward, you would be with me." He opened his mouth, but I kept talking. "I was mistaken. What you meant was, you weren't with Grace, and you weren't with me either. You're not with anybody, and that gives you the freedom to be with everybody."
"Well," he said, clearly not liking where this was going, "not everybody."
"Sure, because you're not a slut. You're just a free spirit. You're an individual. Like you explained to me in the pavilion, everybody in your family's divorced. Couples aren't meant to be permanent. You get into a couple-a coupling, like a train car-with one girl and then another."

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