Something in the Way(7)

By: Jessica Hawkins


“You can tell me. I smoked sometimes at your age. It’s normal.”

“She wasn’t,” Manning said, his voice smooth. Deep. “And smoking at her age isn’t normal.”

Tiffany wrinkled her nose. “It was for me and my friends. I’m Tiffany, by the way.”

“Manning.”

The three of us went quiet.

“Where were you?” I asked.

She squinted against the sun behind us. It was obviously hurting her eyes. “The mall. Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale is next month, so I was making a list of what I’m going to get. As Daddy says, it’s good to be prepared.” She glanced between the two of us. “I’m sorry if she was bothering you. She’s not supposed to be out here.”

My hairline prickled. Being made to sound like a child might be worse than getting sent back inside.

Manning shook his head fractionally. “She wasn’t bothering me.”

It didn’t sound convincing. My stomach clenched at the realization that maybe I was annoying him, and he’d just been too polite to say anything. My butt began to ache from the wall, but I stayed put. Tiffany was about to pull the plug on my afternoon, and I wanted to soak this up. The sun on my back. The sweat and dirt. Manning. I hadn’t realized until now how little I’d been outside this summer because of studying.

“You work out here?” Tiffany asked. “One of your crew whistled at me yesterday.”

“I saw,” Manning said. “Did you hit it off?”

“With him? God, no. He’s not my type.”

Manning nodded. “Then it won’t happen again. The catcalling.”

“Oh. It was no big deal.” She shrugged, running a light fingertip along her collarbone. “Manning. That’s a cool name.”

“I had no say in it.”

She laughed. “What about you, Manning? You have a girlfriend?”

“No.”

“You live around here?”

“Not that close.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”

My gaze had been bouncing back and forth between them, and I did a double take. He wasn’t even close to Tiffany’s age. He might even be too old for her.

“Want to come inside for a beer?” Tiffany asked.

We weren’t allowed to drink our parents’ alcohol. It should’ve gone without mentioning since Tiffany wouldn’t be twenty-one for two more years, but it had been said, more than once, since Tiffany had stolen from their stash before.

I didn’t know what would be a worse offense in my parents’ eyes—drinking their alcohol or inviting one of the workers into their home. I would be sworn to secrecy afterward. I didn’t like lying to my parents, but sometimes, a teenage girl like my sister could be more menacing than anyone.

“I’m working,” Manning answered.

Tiffany closed one eye against the sun and smiled. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“Lunch break.”

I looked up at him. “But you have no food.”

“I’m on a diet.”

Tiffany laughed. I drew my brows together. Was that a joke? He didn’t seem like the funny type but it was even less likely he’d go on a diet. I forced a chuckle as well.

“Come inside,” Tiffany said. “Lake’ll make you a sandwich. She makes the best ones.”

“Sorry,” he said. His eyes stayed on me. “I don’t think your parents would like it.”

I must’ve stared at him like I was seeing the sun for the first time, but I didn’t know how to help that. I knew he shouldn’t come in. I wanted him to. If he didn’t, either Tiffany would leave and make me go with her or she’d want to be alone with him.

“I’ll make you a sandwich,” I blurted.

Manning looked over my head. “I can’t.”

“Okay, fine.” Tiffany turned to nod at me. “Don’t you have homework or something? Get lost.”

Manning’s dark eyes narrowed on Tiffany. “You talk to your sister that way?”

She brushed hair from her neck, visibly reddening. “She knows I’m joking. Don’t you, sis?”

I nodded. Tiffany wasn’t joking. Her thin smile and rigid back were a silent warning—go away, or else. It wasn’t fair, though. I’d been here first. “I don’t have any more homework. Tomorrow’s my last day.”

“Oh.” Tiffany shifted feet. “I bet Manning would like if you brought him a sandwich then.”

I figured Manning probably would like that. I didn’t want to go, but Tiffany would find a way to get what she wanted, and at least this way, I’d be doing something for Manning, too. “Okay.”

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