Perfect Couple

Page 62


I shrugged. "It was only physical, I guess. I can always find another football player."
Kaye gave a big sniff. "You can tell yourself that. The problem with denial is, it's a bitch when it comes to a screeching halt. After that happens in a few hours, give me a call. I'm here for you."
I nodded. My heart was racing, but I felt strangely numb.
"You're good at keeping secrets," Kaye said.
"Yes, I am."
"Guess who the senior class really voted Perfect Couple That Never Was?"
I could tell from the look on her face. "You and Sawyer."
"And he hates me," she said. "I wish I'd never heard of these stupid titles."
"He doesn't hate you," I said. I would keep his secret. Besides, if I told Kaye that Sawyer had a crush on her, that would lead nowhere. Even if she wasn't with Aidan, there was no way she and Sawyer could get along as a couple. But I couldn't let her go on thinking he hated her when the opposite was true.
I could definitely agree with her on one thing: "These Superlatives titles are the worst idea ever." But I wouldn't say I wished I'd never heard of them. If it hadn't been for my title with Brody, I would never have shared last night on the beach with him. And though we'd probably been right to let each other go, I would cherish the feeling of understanding him so deeply, and the memory of his body on mine.
When I got back to the B & B, I found Mom sitting halfway up the grand staircase, oiling the newel posts. I asked her, "Where are the guests?"
"They're all out. What's up?"
I'd been doing deep-breathing exercises all the way home on my bike, so I was able to say calmly, "I would like to get on the pill."
It was dark in the stairwell, with only a little evening light filtering through the second-story stained-glass window. Even so, I could see every drop of blood drain from Mom's face. "Harper. Have you had unprotected sex?"
"No, Mom. I haven't had sex."
"Thank God!" She flopped backward on the staircase with her arms sprawled out and her hair in her eyes, like she'd fainted. After this dramatic show, I waited for her to sit up again, but she stayed there. I patted her hand.
"Never scare me like that again," she murmured.
"That's the point. Brody and I broke up, but-"
"Oh, honey!" She sat up then, flipping her hair back over her shoulders. "I'm so sorry. You weren't dating him very long. What happened?"
"I broke up with him. And then I tried to take it back, and he broke up with me. Now I regret it."
"Why don't you try to make up?"
"He's really mad, Mom. Really mad. I don't blame him . The thing is . . . last night we fooled around. We didn't have sex, but we wanted to. It scared me. I think it scared me so badly that I pushed him away. I-" I stumbled over the rest of what I'd meant to say. Hearing myself verbalize the problem was what opened the floodgates, and all of a sudden I was bawling in Mom's arms.
* * *
Mom led me back to the house and actually cooked me dinner for once. We sat at the table and talked for an hour about Brody, and the Superlatives, and what all of it had meant to me. I explained that being named to the title with him had made me realize that my world was smaller than it needed to be, because I was mostly doing what other people wanted or expected, instead of exploring all my possibilities.
"The pill is just another part of it," I said with a loud sniffle. "I'm not sure I'll be able to get Brody back. Even if I did, I'm not saying we'd do it. For a while, at least. But I'm about to turn eighteen. I'll be at college soon. I think it's time I took care of myself. I'm tired of being afraid."
Mom nodded. "Those are all good reasons. We can definitely get you on the pill. And I know what you mean about being scared. It's a big decision. You should feel confident that you're protected." She eyed me. "But, Harper."
Uh-oh. "What?"
"If you're ever about to have sex and you're not a little bit nervous in a good way, you're not doing something right."
"That's wholesome, Mom. Thanks." I rubbed my eyes. I'd had to take my contacts out after the first fifteen minutes of bawling. "I am going to college, you know."
She shrugged and started to get up from the table. "You don't have to decide right now."
"No, Mom." I grabbed her hand and held it until she slowly sat back down. "I don't know why you want me to skip college and help you run the B & B. Maybe you see your relationship with Dad finally ending, and you're afraid to be completely on your own. There's no reason for you to feel that way. You're a successful businesswoman. You don't need me."
She smiled wanly. "Maybe I just want you."
"But I don't want this," I said. "I don't even want to help with breakfast anymore. I could really use more time in my day to expand my photography business, and that will help me pay for college. Plus, if you hire real employees, you could choose someone who's better company for your guests."
"Oh, honey!" she exclaimed. "You're lovely company."
"You're saying that because you're my mother. And as your daughter, there's another thing I'd like to do, too, if you'll let me."

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