Something in the Way(6)

By: Jessica Hawkins



“Smoking.” My feet dangled over the wall. “You look like you really want to smoke it.”

He returned it behind his ear. “Lake,” he said as if trying the word out. “And your middle name?”

That, I’d never reveal. “I hate it.”

He turned his whole body to me. “Tell me.”

“It’s ugly.”

“How can a name be ugly?”

“Trust me, it can,” I said simply. Mom liked to remind me it was a family name when I talked like that, but I didn’t care. Family or not, Dolly seemed like a babyish name, and it was no better than the stuffy-sounding Dolores from which it came.

He half-smiled, one corner of his mouth lifting. That was the first I saw of his straight, white teeth. My heart skipped. Under the dirt, the sweat, the calluses, he was handsome. I’d known it already, peripherally, as I knew the direction of the beach or the artwork hanging in my dad’s office. But now it was right in front of me—I couldn’t miss it.

His forehead creased with lines. “Careful, or it’ll come off a third time,” he said.

It took me a second to realize I’d been twisting my bracelet around my wrist.

“This time, I might not give it back,” he said.

“You’d take it to the porn shop?” It came out fast, breezily, before I could think about it. But it was probably the most brazen thing I’d ever said.

“The what?” he asked, pulling his entire upper body away.

“The . . .” I widened my eyes at his incredulous stare. “You said you’d take it to a porn shop.”

“Pawn,” he pronounced slowly. “P-a-w-n.”

I shook my head. I was still confused. “I—I don’t know what that is.”

He blew out a sigh and glanced up at the sky. “It’s a place you can take valuables for quick cash. Never mind.”

“Oh.” My embarrassment was palpable, like an anvil on my chest. The silence made it worse.

“You can go if you want,” he finally said.

Did I want to? My impulses since I’d come over here had ping-ponged between smiling and shaking and lots else. Everything felt different. Even the house they were building looked further along than it’d been yesterday. Nobody seemed to think it was weird, me sitting here with him. “Do you want me to?”

He kept his eyes forward. “You remind me of my younger sister.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have one.”

“When?”

I thought back to the conversation earlier. I’d suggested he might’ve given the bracelet to someone like a girlfriend or sister. Maybe I hadn’t said sister. I shook my head. “Never mind.”

With the squeal of tires against pavement, I checked over my shoulder. Tiffany’s BMW zoomed in our direction. I wasn’t supposed to be out here. I didn’t think Tiffany would tell Dad, but I didn’t want her to see me and come over. I also wasn’t ready to go inside.

Tiffany parked at the curb. I sucked in a breath and held it, sitting as still as possible, hoping to blend in with my surroundings. After all, Tiffany overlooked me all the time.

I should’ve known she wasn’t in the habit of overlooking attractive men.





2





Lake





Tiffany shut the driver’s side door of her BMW and started across the construction lot to where Manning and I sat on the wall.

Manning leaned his elbows onto his knees and watched her approach. My sister had that effect on men. They were always looking over or around me to see her. What’d he think when he looked at her? What’d he notice first?

I’d spent my life hearing how beautiful my sister and mother were and had been told I looked like them enough times to believe I might also be attractive. Some day. What I didn’t have usually didn’t bother me. Things like lipstick and hairspray and shopping had always seemed stupid compared to books and grades and college applications. Watching Manning’s face as Tiffany approached, I began to wonder if that was true. I’d never doubted my own attractiveness more.

“Sorry I was late,” she said to me as she looked Manning over. “I went by the school.”

“I walked.”

She stopped in front of us, shielded her eyes, and put a hand on her hip. “What are you doing out here?”

I shrugged casually, but inside, fervently prayed she wouldn’t send me home. “He found my bracelet.”

“I didn’t know you lost it.” Tiffany glanced from my wrist to the cigarette in Manning’s hand. “You’re smoking?”

I shifted on the brick wall. “No. Of course not.”

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