Self Hatred

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Chapter 8

Here's the new chapter.


Lately, things have been pretty uneventful which, for me, is like a warm blanket in the middle of a snowstorm.

I’m comfortable around Brandon and find myself smiling more around Jason. Not because I like him, duh, but because he makes fun of the way Brandon and Tara hang all over each other.

“Get a fucking room already...” Jason said as he sits at the table halfway through lunch.

Since he and Daphne ′broke up’, he’s been spending more time at the cheerleader table. Sometimes he smiles thickly and leans in to kiss under one of their ears before snapping back like their skin is made of tar.

He’s so freaking weird.

Other times Jason sits with the 3 of us, tossing pieces of pizza crust at Brandon when he goes to kiss Tara.

“Shut up, Dickward...” Tara said, calling Jason this little pet name she’s thought up.

I’m so used to Brandon and Tara ignoring me at lunch that I’ve started bringing books and reading or catching up on homework.

“When do you get those out?” Jason asked, completely catching me off guard.

When I glance up from my book, he’s staring me down, gulping down the bottle of water in his hand.

My stitches.

He’s talking about my stitches.

“Oh, uh, well it was supposed to be last week, but your dad said it hadn’t healed all the way yet—” I began but Jason cuts me off.

“Probably from climbing that lattice,” Jason, interjects.

“—So I’m going tonight to get them out...” I finish my sentence with a glare.

“Tonight?” He asked.

“Yeah, tonight...” I repeat slower.

“My dad’s off today...” Jason said.

“He said some other doctor will take them out...” I said.

Dr. Morgan did say he was off today, but it’s the only other day Tara could take me, and Dr. Morgan would kill me if I rode my bike there.

He told me explicitly I shouldn’t be riding a bike or curling my palm around anything that might compromise the wound area.

Someone, who I suspect as Tara, left a very nice, very expensive bike outside my house and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to ride it.

“Wait for me after school...” Jason said standing, tossing his water bottle and my plastic baggie with the crust of my sandwich onto his tray. “He can take them out at home...” Jason said.


But he’s already gone.

No no no no no no. No.

In science, I try to get his attention, but the teacher only turns the video up.

Jason sits at the lab table in front of me, so I write a note, fold it up, and toss it to him.

The other doctor can do it. It’s fine.

I watch as he opens the paper, flattens it on the cold, black table, and then turns his attention back to the video.

He’s ignoring me.

The rest of science drags on tediously while I watch as that white notebook paper never moves an inch. Not until we’re packing up, and I’m distracted, does Jason slip the paper back to me.

Scribbled in boy writing, its says.

It’s not fine. Find me before I have to find you.

Jason’s gone by the time I look up.


At the end of the day, I take my time packing up. Books that I don’t even need fill my backpack so I can waste time, hoping he just leaves.

When I make my way out, Tara and Brandon are standing there talking to Jason. Slowly, I walk down the hill to the parking lot, moping like a kid scorned.

“Call me later...” Tara says curiously.

I give her a simple nod, pushing my hair behind my ears and facing Jason. Pink peaks out between two red lips before sucking his bottom lip between his teeth.

“What took so fucking long?” He asked, walking over to the driver’s side.

His intensity catches me off guard and I freeze.

I can’t do this.

I know he hasn’t been a total asshole to me lately, but maybe this is his plan. Get me to his house and humiliate me.

One last hoorah before I commit myself.

“Hailey?” Jason said quietly, tapping the roof of his car.

When I glance up, his eyebrows knit together in confusion before his cheeks pink and he looks away. Jason moves away from his door and pops the trunk, gesturing for my backpack.

When I hand it over, he sort of scoffs. “Jesus, I guess that’s what took so long...” He muttered.

It makes me laugh but only nervously.

In the car, filled with awkward silence, I reach to turn up the music at the same time he does and our fingers touch. It’s not lightening, but it’s electric.

My heart jackhammers at the same time we go from 35 to 50 under his lead foot.

We pull into his driveway in no time. This house taunts me. The last time I was here, I ran up the steps to give Dr. Morgan the letter.

The last time I was here, my dad ripped me from my childhood.

The last time I was here, I was whole.

Swallowing deeply, I open my door and follow Jason up the steps.

“Hey, son..” Dr. Morgan greets. “Hailey...” He says with a kindness only he can show.

“Hi,” I squeaked.

I take note of the huge living room, redone to rival the best HGTV living room I’ve ever seen. Gray, royal couches line the wall and flank the sides of the fireplace with an ornate rug thrown across it.

There’s a recliner and a bookshelf leading into the dining room with a long table that seats 12. A crystal chandelier hangs from above casting glimmers around the floor.

That I remember.

The kitchen is redone to include a huge island, bar seating, and shiny counter tops. The appliances are stainless steel, and while I don’t necessary love to cook, I wouldn’t mind doing it here.

Down the hall are two closed doors and Dr. Morgan’s study.

“Some privacy?” Dr. Morgan asked his son who follows us into the room.

Jason rolls his eyes and walks out, leaving the door wide open.

“How are you?” He asks, sitting at his desk, looking towards my hand.

“Okay...” I said honestly.

His genuine smile warms me to my belly. It feels nice.

“Your wound looks good... No more redness around the edges, the stitches are pretty much falling out at this point... I’m just going to snip and pull, okay? You shouldn’t feel much of anything, Hailey...” He explained.

I smile and nod, looking around as he leaves to wash his hands.

There’s a wall of bookshelves, another fireplace, this big oak desk, and three huge windows on another wall, looking out into the backyard.

Memories flood back in as I recall sneaking into the woods by that tall pine tree so we could run off into the meadow.

Memories of Jason picking wild flowers, laying in the weeds, laughing like a hyena when I told him I saw his mom and dad kissing in the kitchen.

“Ready?” He asked with a smile.

It takes him all of 2 minutes to cut and dispose of the stitches.

He shows me a cream I can use to help with the scar, but what do I care?

“If you ever need anything...” Dr. Morgan said, standing to show me the door, “Please let Jason know, okay Hailey?” He added.

I look at him and nod.

I trust Dr. Morgan, but not in this house.

“Done?” Jason asked, leaning against the counter in the kitchen.

I hold out my palm. “Good to go...” I tell him.

“Brandon and Tara want to meet at the diner at 5...” Jason said as Dr. Morgan walks back to his office and shuts the door.

I glance at the clock on the microwave. 4:07pm.

“Oh, you can just take me home then. I’ll—” I began but Jason cut me off.

“Ride your bike there?” He finishes. “Don’t be ridiculous, it would take you an hour... We’ll leave in a few minutes...” He added on.

Oh my god.

Staying in Jason’s house, alone with Jason, is not what I ever want to do.

“Can we like, go outside or something?” I asked fighting back the panic I can feel rising.

“Raining...” He says gesturing behind him.

I have to squint to see the fine mist.

Edward’s lips tug slightly as he looks down and shakes his head.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing...” He said with a laugh.

“Whatever... You’re so annoying...” I grumbled.

Jason rolls up the sleeves of his button down and crosses inked arms around his chest.

Trees start at his wrist and spread up his forearm. His shirt covers his bicep and the rest of the image, but it’s still as striking as the first time I saw it.

“What’s with the trees?” I asked, nodding to his ink.

He looks down and back up, assessing me, judging me. Blue eyes on mine chill my skin and I notice he’s looking me in the eyes more and more lately.

“In the woods we return to reason and faith...” He quotes.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson,” I say. “I remember in 9th grade Mr. Randos made us do those poetry packets... He wrote about the forest...” I said. Jason nods but doesn’t go into detail so I don’t push it. “And your dad doesn’t care?” I asked.

He laughs like it’s funny. “What’s he going to do?” He asked.

“Doesn’t he need to approve it? How’d you even get those without adult consent?” I asked.

“Drug dealers usually know people who know people, Hailey...” He said quietly.

Jason looks so grown up in this moment. He stands almost a foot taller, broad shouldered, and narrow in the waist.

I’ve seen him shirtless, pantsless, and even that one second with no boxers on. His blue eyes look green against all the muted tones in here, and his hair stands in every direction from a nervous hand that rushes through it.

“Do you think Tara is serious about Brandon?” he asked suddenly a few moments later.

“Why? Is he serious about her?” I asked.

He sort of smiles before shaking it off. “I asked you first...” He countered.

I choose my words carefully. “I think Tara is open for a lot of things when it comes to Brandon...” I said.

“But is she serious about him?” He asked as he watches intently.

“As serious as a girl can be who’s just having sex with a guy...” I said with a shrug.

He nods in understanding. “Let’s go...” He said, checking the time.

“Is he serious about her?” I asked, walking through the large, open rooms.

He turns when we get to the front door. “Make sure she’s on the pill or something...” He said.

What a weird comment, but okay, whatever.

In the car, Jason leans to the side like men do when they drive, and my leg shakes almost nonstop. When I try to stop, take a breath, lower my heart rate, something else starts it up again.

Jason leans over towards me and digs in the arm console, pulling out a baggie and joint. He lights up and inhales a few times before holding it in between his fingers on the steering wheel. His window is cracked, and the cold air whistles by.

After a few more minutes of quiet and uncontrollable leg bouncing, Jason passes me the joint. The end is wet from his lips, and I hesitate before bringing it to my own. His eyes on my fingers and then on my lips pull the joint to my mouth.

I need to calm the hell down. 2 small hits and I pass it back to Jason who stubs out the end and puts it in a tin tray in his console.

“Thanks...” I tell him.

I don’t know if it’s 2 small hits or Jason’s attentiveness that puts me at ease, but my leg stops.

“Did you smoke the one I gave you yet?” He asked, pulling into the parking lot next to Tara’s car.

“No...” I said.

He nods before looking around and getting out. Lucky for us, there are no lingering people in the parking lot.

I can imagine the rumors now:

Did you hear Jason and Hailey were smoking together?

I heard she blew him for an ounce.

Well I heard he fucked her in the back seat at the diner.

Someone said they saw her buying Plan B at the drugstore.

“Hails!” Tara called out, patting the spot next to her in the booth.

Thank god she thought ahead. I would have turned right back around if Jason and I were forced to sit next to each other.

This has already been a weird freaking day.

Tara listens intently for the next hour. She gives me her undivided attention, and it’s nice. I miss my friend.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she’s finding whatever she needs to find with Brandon, but I miss our friendship before him.

But, I stop the wistfulness the second Brandon naturally reaches across the booth and, without thinking, rubs the back of Tara’s hand with the tips of his fingers. They’re both engaged in conversations with other people.

Tara talks to me about these boots she bought online and Brandon laughs with Jason about Daphne hooking up with Tim last weekend.

When I look over, Jason’s watching me watch Brandon’s fingers before quirking an eyebrow like I told you so. These 2 have got it so bad.

“Tar...” I whispered, “Are you on birth control?” I asked.

Her cheeks pink only slightly before she nods with a small smile.

“Yeah...” she answered.

It’s pure, and honest, and I’m so glad she’s being safe.

Generally, I love the feeling of Fridays. It’s the last day of school for the week, my dad is usually gone all weekend, and Tara always lets me spend the night.

With her spending more and more time with Brandon, the likelihood of seeing Jason increases tenfold, so when Brandon invites us, well actually Tara, to a party in Flagstaff, it takes a little convincing to say yes.

“We’ll ride with him so we can get fucked up, Hails!” Tara persuades. “We’ll take shots and get drunk and dance around like fools... Come on, it’ll be fun!” Tara practically squeals in excitement.

This is where we went wrong to begin with.

After school, I ask Tara to stop at the library so I can print another college application before we head to her house.

Mrs. Gordan, the librarian, eyes me up and down before offering me a job. I’m here all the time anyways, and I’m pretty self-sufficient, at least that’s what she says, so I may as well get paid for it.

“After school hours from 3 to 6 Monday through Friday...” She said while I nod vehemently.

It gets me out of the house, pays well, and allows me to save for next year. I start Monday after school.

“You have to wear this...” Tara said, holding out a tight black tank and black leggings.

“I can’t wear—” I began to ask.

“And just why the hell not, Hails?” She argued.

“Um, for 1 you’re a toothpick and I’m not... And 2 it’s literally 40 degrees out...” I explained.

Tara huffs and crosses her dainty arms in annoyance. “Fine, you can throw this over top...” She said as she pulled out a black and red plaid button up.

My plan is to try it on and argue that it doesn’t fit, but it does. Stretchy spandex up top and bottom hug my curves and make my nonexistent ass look pretty good, actually. My boobs bounce from the tight hug of the tank. Soft flannel skims down my arms like a cozy hug.

Then I check the tags

“Tara Mathews, you bought these in my size...” I said in surprise. Her genuine, kind smile makes my heart feel like a campfire. “Thank you...” I say softly.

Tears prick my bottom lashes and I don’t really know what else to. Thanks for caring for me. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for being my only friend. My closet is full of clothes she buys that are magically my size, but none are really my style. This, though… this is.

“You can repay me by letting me do your makeup...” She said.

It’s an easy gesture, so I allow her to go crazy. I won’t know anyone there anyways, so why the hell not?

She wings my liner and curls my lashes and swipes dark red across my lips. Blood red makes my pale skin even snowier. She curls my hair loosely, effortlessly, and I actually look okay.

“Wow, Tar...” I said, looking in the mirror.

She’s got on a tight black dress, a long red cardigan, and combat boots. Her glossy lips smile back.

“I know, right?” She replied.

We wait impatiently for Brandon to pick us up. Her dad thinks she’s staying at my house tonight, and that’s the plan, I guess.

I’m nervous to have her over. It’s been so long, and while my dad is usually MIA on the weekends, I have a bad feeling about this.

But, my girl does so much for me I couldn’t tell her no.

Brandon finally pulls up and when the passenger door opens, I’m not surprised. With a bottle in one hand and can of coke in the other, Jason falls into the backseat and I get in after him.


“For a couple that’s not really a couple, they certainly do ′couple′ things, huh?” Jason jokes close to me.

Up front, Brandon guides Tara’s hand to his knee and they talk quietly under the music.

He’s right.

Jason holds out the bottle and Coke, and since I have to be around him all night, I take a huge swig.

“What is this?” I asked, nearly spitting it out even after the chaser.

“Moonshine... You’ll be good to go in another shot or 2...” He pulls out the joint and lights up. My fingers itch but I’m afraid to ask. “Pick your poison, Dawson... Do you wanna get faded or fucked up tonight?” He said.

“Can’t I do both?” I questioned.

This party world is totally new, so it’s a naïve but honest question.

“Not you...” He inhaled and I watch the blue of his eyes disappear.

“Whatever, Jason...” I said, rolling my eyes.

He’s always fucking teasing and testing. Why can’t we just have 1 normal night?

Jason shakes his head and blows smoke out the window before rolling it up and turning to me. His long fingers reach over and tug a curl, catching my attention.

“I’m—I don’t say it to be a dick... If you get drunk and high, you won’t be able to control yourself... You really want that where we’re going...” Jason said.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

His cocky smirks freaks me out a little. “We’re definitely not in Phoenix anymore, Princess...” Jason said.

It kills me to admit it, but Jason was right.

The few parties I’ve been to in Phoenix are nothing like this one.

This place makes Greg’s house look like a trailer.

On the way here, we pass mansions and trimmed lawns and expensive cars.

The house is gigantic, sitting back into the forest, trees on all sides. The driveway winds up a curvy hillside until a clearing breaks and then dozens of cars are littered throughout the yard and half moon driveway.

“Holy shit...” I whispered.

The 2 shots I take already hit me as we exit the vehicle.

Walking up to the steps, I stumble and nearly eat it, but a hand snakes around my elbow and pulls me back.

“Boy, you’re an easy drunk...” Jason laughed in my ear as he skips up the steps ahead of us.

He’s less combative and not so mean tonight, and I blame it on the consumption of liquor in the car. For every shot I had, he took 2.

My fingers are crossed for a fun night. Lately I’m beginning to think he’s less of a dickhead and more mental health challenged.

“I’m not your parent, but I’d stay away from pills and powders tonight, okay?” Brandon said like I’d actually do it. I merely nod in agreement and so does Tara.

Inside, the living space is huge and open. The dining room and living room fill wall to wall with people I don’t recognize.

Tara holds my hand and Brandon’s as he leads us to the kitchen, pouring us a drink, and excusing himself.

“He’s here on ′business′ I guess...” Tara said, watching him walk away with a black backpack slung over his shoulder.

I play dumb. “What’s he do?” I asked.

“Sells drugs...” She said easily.

Well, at least she’s honest.

After a few hours, Tara and I drink a lot. Like, a lot.

I’ve never been this drunk, and neither has she. Since returning from his business, Brandon has never left our sides. He has to shoo away 3 or 4 boys who come up to talk to me.

“Damn, Brandon, that one was cute...” I protested as the cute blonde retreats.

“He’s a junkie...” Brandon said. “I just sold him a grand worth of pain pills... That the kind of boy you want, Hailey?” He asked amusement lacing his tone.

“Not when you put it that way...” I grumbled.

Tara pulls Brandon in and kisses him hot and heavy on the lips. Her gloss slides against his lips and when she moans into the kiss, I need to go.

I stand suddenly and announce my absolute need to pee, and be away from them.

“There’s a door down the hall going into the basement... There’s a bathroom that’s off limits to anyone not supplying the party...” Brandon said, pointing to the hall.

“Want me to go?” Tara asked, but I shake my head no.

I use the wall to help support me as I find my way to the basement door. I’m so drunk I nearly trip down the steps and giggle to myself.

It’s a clean, carpeted room that’s brightly lit and empty. A pool table, U shaped sectional, and a huge flat screen TV take up the majority of the room.

I revel in the quiet for a moment before opening the door to the bathroom.

Inside I do my business and turn on the water. My shoulders and neck heat up suddenly, and I feel only slightly queasy from the juice mixers Brandon was using.

With the water on, I check my phone.

3 texts and a call from Carl.

"Hey baby, what’s up?" ~Carl

"Wanna hang out?" ~Carl

"Hailey?" ~Carl

I haven’t seen Carl since I hurt my hand despite his many attempts. Maybe this weekend though, so in my drunken state, I respond.

"Let’s plan for another time." ~Hailey

I feel like I’ve been in this room for far too long, so I shut off the water and open the bathroom door. No one’s down here, thank goodness, so I sit on the couch and let the world spin around me.

It’s a weird feeling and I wonder briefly if my dad feels like this permanently. The ceiling is brightly lit and hurts my eyes. I want to stand, but I’m suddenly tired.

“Hailey?” A familiar voice calls to my right. I didn’t even hear anyone come down here.

“Jason?” I asked, opening my eyes.

“I’ll catch you upstairs, Megan...” He said quietly, and I hear stiletto heals press into the fibers of new carpeting. “You good?” He asked, sitting next to me.

“Everything’s spinning...” I said with a giggle.

Jason laughs lightly. “You’re fucked, Dawson... I told you that you wouldn’t be able to handle yourself... Brandon should have never let you drink so much...” Jason said.

“I can handle myself just fine, Jason...” I told him as meanly as my drunken state will allow.

“Sure you can...” He said with a laugh.

I blame it on the alcohol and the amount of time we’ve spent together over the last few weeks, but word vomit spews from my mouth.

“What happened to us?” I asked.

“What?” He asked, taken off guard.

“What happened?” I asked again, looking at him this time.

Tears line my eyes so I look up. This is pathetic, and I feel disgusting, but I can’t keep it in anymore.

“Nothing...” He said.

“Don’t lie!” I accused. “Why were you mean to me when I needed you?” My words are small and just as little as I feel.

I’m that 9 year old girl who lost her mom and her best friend.

“Don’t be a crybaby—” He began but I wasn’t having it.

“You called me names! You bullied me for years! You made me think I was worth nothing...” I practically yell.

He’s quiet which surprises me. I can’t see but I can feel the dip from him sitting on the couch with me.

“I’m—” He paused and I wait for it, but it never comes. “I was going through my own fucking shit...” His words slice, but not towards me.

He’s definitely angry, but I’m not the target. I sit up now and look at him. His fists clench tightly and his breathing increases.

“What happened?” I ask softly.

Drunk Hailey asks all the questions Sober Hailey can not.

“Nothing...” He spat, clearly unwilling to talk about it.

I fall back onto the couch in a huff and so does he. My arms cross over my chest and my tongue feels numb. Pins and needles tickle my fingertips, and the heat of my cheeks shocks me.

Jason’s elbow brushes against the thin fabric of my flannel.

“I’ve never been this drunk...” I giggled and move past our trauma because those drinks Brandon made have me feeling way too good to feel sad tonight.

I giggled at the feeling my belly gives me when I move. I giggle at the playful smile on my lips. I giggle at the look of pure confusion on Jason’s face.

“You’re growing a beard?” I asked him, suddenly sitting up.

All this moving makes me queasy.

He scratches it self-consciously. “Not on purpose, I guess...” He said.

“Hmph...” I said with a smirk.

“What?” He asked.

“Nothing...” I said.

“What, Hailey? Does it look dumb or something?” He asked determinedly.

My giggle grows louder and I clutch my belly, falling to my side. Alcohol has me messy and fun.

Jason lifts me up and pins me back. He’s closer than before, and I can smell him. He’s woodsy, and earthy, and absolutely everything a misfit, ex-bestie, 17 year old should smell like.

I reach my hand up and graze his beard with my fingers before dropping them like I touched the hottest piece of coal.

“That was weird...” I said out loud what I’m also thinking quietly.

His tongue peaks out from his mouth and his eyes narrow on my red lips.

“Maybe we should go upstairs now...” He said quietly.

I let him help me up and guide me, with his hand on the small of my back, up the stairs and to a knowing, smiling Brandon.

“Good one...” I heard Jason say before he walks away.

I lean into Tara and kiss the right side of her lips.

“I love you...” I tell her honestly.

She’s my sister forever. She shares the same sentiment and pulls me into her tiny frame.

“Should’ve known...” Brandon laughed.

“What?” I ask over the loud music.

“We had a bet over which of you would be the lovey dovey drunk and which would be the hellion...” Brandon sits back and puffs on his joint.

“And?” I press on.

“Well, I just had to redress Tara...” He laughed when my mouth hits the table.

We’re here another hour and I’m still as drunk as before. I got used to the people, and meet some girls who are actually pretty fun. They pull me with them to dance and Brandon nods his head to okay it.

Not that I need his permission, it just feels good knowing someone’s watching out.

Tonight, I’m not anxiety riddled, abused Hailey. I’m not the girl afraid to step on the wrong piece of wood in my bedroom. I’m not the girl with 3 locks on her bedroom just in case.

I’m free and fun and flirty. I haven’t laughed this much in a very long time, and I’m actually glad Tara got with Brandon so I could feel normal for even just one night.

“You’re so pretty...” The tall brunette said as we jump around to a pop song.

“You too!” I call out, mimicking her moves and dancing around.

Tara leaves after the first song to go back to Brandon, but I stay because this is fun. The blonde grabs my hands and twirls like Tara just was, and we complement each other on our outfits, and hair, and pretty smiles.

3 songs later, I excuse myself to grab another drink. When I return to the table, Brandon and Tara aren’t there.

Drunk and friendly, I venture around the house. I don’t spot them out on the porch, in any open door downstairs, and nothing on the second floor either.

I watch as couples and singles travel up and back down from the 3rd floor, so I try it out. Every door is locked but 1, and when I open the last door on the right, down the darkly lit hall, I stand and stare in drunken awe and surprise.

A beautiful blonde who I can’t currently make out is bobbing up and down on a very long, very hard dick. My eyes travel from the blonde up the body of the very well endowed man, taking note of some very familiar tattoos, until I come eye to eye with a blue eyed boy.

My drunkenness slows my thought process way down. But then it finally clicks.

Holy fuck, it’s Jason.

He stares directly at me, making no move to stop the blonde. Steel blue traps me, locking me into place. It’s like my feet are made of cement, and I’m stuck to the bottom of the ocean.

His intense gaze frightens me, but I’m also intrigued. Nervousness swirls in my belly as his chest rises and falls faster. He pushes her head down further until she gags and doesn’t let her up until she slaps his thighs.

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Move your feet, Hailey. Go!′ I scream internally.

“What the fuck?” The blonde asked.

He has no choice but to look from me to her, and with a smirk, he grabs her hair and puts his erection back between her lips.

“Suck my cock, Megan, or I’ll find someone else who will...” He tells her dominantly.

Two things happen in this moment. My nipples cut through the lace of my bra in some weird perversion, and Jason leans back, with his hand in her hair, and watches me watching him.

When his eyes connect to mine again, I finally lift my feet from where they’re planted and promptly get the hell out of here.

What in the fuck?′ Is my only thought.

He must be just as drunk as I am. Maybe he didn’t realize it was me. The hall was dark, so maybe he just noticed it was someone, anyone, and he gets off on that or something.

Whatever it is sends a chill down my spine.

What if someone walked in on me and Carl when he was going down on me, would I continue?

I know the answer immediately: No freaking way!

Jason must have been so gone that he didn’t realize. But his eyes were focused and crystal clear. I can’t help but overthink.

Tonight was monumental for us. I haven’t laughed with or because of Jason Morgan in 8 years.

Tonight felt good and easy and I was finally free of the labels I give myself. Now I’m uneasy, nauseous, and really tense.

Every second I close my eyes, Jason’s thing stares back at me.

Back in the kitchen Tara and Brandon sit cuddled closely.

“When can we go? I just saw the most disgusting thing in my life, and I might puke...” I tell them, taking Tara’s drink and chugging it.

“Just waiting for Jason...” Brandon said, playing with the ends of Tara’s short hair.

“Oh, he’s just finishing up...” I tell him sarcastically.

He looks at me with surprise then shakes his head like he knows, too. It’s another 30 minutes before Jason shows up with a petite blonde attached to his hip. I know it’s Megan, but I can’t make eye contact, so I don’t say hi.

Soon we’re loading up in Brandon’s car. Jason presses Megan against my window and kisses her.

“Brandon, can you get him to wrap it up?” I slur from the back while Tara is passed out up front.

“Let’s go, Morgan...” Brandon said curtly.

Jason opens my door and falls inside, scooting me over.

“Scooch...” he slurs before sitting next to me.

We’re mostly quiet on the way home. Trees and raindrops distort my view, so I glance at Brandon who’s focused and then Jason’s who’s looking at me.

“What?” I whispered.

“Nothing...” He smiles.

“You’re creeping me out tonight, Morgan...” I admit.

Jason’s smirk makes my stomach turn. “That’s funny coming from Peeping Tom...” He said.

My scoff drags it out. I’ve given in to him. This is what he wants. Cat and mouse.

I roll my eyes but it makes me dizzy.

Jason leans closer to me. “Peeping Princess...” He whispered.

“Stop calling me that...” I warn not so convincingly.

His chuckle lets me know it’s in jest.

Tonight was too weird, and I don’t really know how to respond, so I don’t.

When we turn down my street, I notice immediately my dad’s car is in the driveway, but so is the black SUV.

“Fuck...” All 3 of us say at once.

“Okay, what’s going on?” I asked. “Who is this person in the black SUV, and why do they keep coming to my house?” I asked. Or well more like snapped.

Edward and Jasper share a look and ignore me.

“Guys?” I question, annoyed beyond belief. “Guys!” I definitely snapped this time.

“Come inside the shed...” Edward slurs. “I mean, don’t come inside there...” He chuckled, leaning back as Brandon pulls into his driveway. “Unless you wanna...” He teased.

“Why am I going to the shed? We’re supposed to be sleeping at my house...” I asked.

Brandon looks from Tara to me. “She’s already sleeping... I don’t know how you’ll get her up the lattice... Can you have a slumber party in the shed?” Brandon asked, almost in a begging tone.

“Fine...” I groaned, but to be honest I’m relieved I won’t be up with my stomach in knots listening for my dad while Tara is over. “But I want to know whose car that is...” I grumbled.

In the shed, Brandon lays Tara down and covers her up before tossing me a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

The boys walk outside to smoke. I’m the kind of drunk where my limbs feel weightless, so I throw off my flannel, tank, and bra, tossing them onto the cushion to the left of where I’m now curled up. I forgo the sweats since my pants are already stretchy.

Too many shots have me wired, and there is no way I’m even the least bit tired, so I walk outside to find the boys. They’re against the siding, near to where I fell and busted open my palm. Each boy sits on an upturned milk crate.

Brandon pulls 1 over for me. “Good night?” Brandon asked, inhaling from his cigarette.

“I had a lot of fun... Thanks for inviting me...” I tell him knowing full well he only really invited Tara. “Who’s car is that?” I asked again, talking about the SUV in my driveway.

“That’s our boss...” Brandon explained.

“And what’s he doing at my house?” I asked.

They look to each other briefly. “That’s what we’d like to know, too...” Jason, still drunk, is much more forthcoming with the information. “We think he’s getting your dad to sell hard drugs...” He added.

“Like?” I asked.

“Heroin, meth... And he’s in it to make a good buck... We heard this summer Raf, our boss, was working on a new recipe that’s dirt cheap to make but sells at a higher rate because the high lasts longer... That’s what we think Mr. Leaks was on when he died...” Jason explains.

“Okay?” I said because I don’t really have anything to add.

Much like earlier, I feel like I’m swimming through mud and can’t think clearly.

“We think Raf is using your dad to sell batches of a new drug so if anything goes south, he can’t be traced...” Brandon said as he flicks the cigarette to the ground and watches me.

“Couldn’t my dad just tell the police?” I asked.

“Who’s going to trust your dad’s word?” Brandon asked.

“Who’s going to believe Tony Fleece, the town drunk who can’t even take care of his own step-daughter?” Jason whispered the last part.

It sounded like it hurts him to say it almost as much as it hurts me to hear him say it.

“Guess you have a point...” I whispered.

“Raf is never to be trusted...” Brandon said clearly. “If you see his SUV in your driveway, never go home...” He added.

“What? Why?” He sounds absurd. “I’ll just sneak up the lattice into my room...” I snapped.

“No...” Brandon said. “Never, Hailey...” He added sternly.

This is ridiculous and he needs to know it.

“What if it’s raining, or snowing, or the middle of the night? I’m supposed to—what—live at the playground, sleep in the woods?” I asked almost panicked.

“Raf raped 3 underage girls last year... 3! And that was only last year... Daughters of his drug dealers... They never went to the cops because they couldn’t exactly say ′hey my supplier assaulted my daughter’, so he was never charged...” Brandon explained.

“Oh, O-okay...” I said softly.

“I keep the spare key to the shed under the cooler...” Brandon said, pointing behind me. “If it’s not there for some reason, text me...” He said.

I simply nod my response and get stuck in my own head.

My dad’s a drug dealer? He must need the money for his addiction. I wonder if he’s using. Do I want him to? Do I care? What if he dies?

Fear strikes me the second this thought crosses my mind. If he dies, and I’m underage, what will happen to me?

The boys and I walk back into the shed after a while. I’m exhausted but not tired.

Tara and Brandon cuddle on the love-seat under a blanket.

Snores disrupt my thoughts every once in a while.

Jason and I are on the couch like last time. This time, though, I’m curled in a ball with my head on the arm rest, then sitting up, then slouched down, then curled in a ball the other way with my head on the middle cushion and my feet on the arm rest.

Jason’s proximity doesn’t go unnoticed, but he’s been silent, so I assume he’s asleep. He’s slouched all the way down, legs spread wide, neck rolled to one side. His breathing comes and goes evenly, and I hate that I’m the only one awake.

After a while I sit up in the pitch black quiet and sigh.

“Go to sleep...” Jason grumbled, scaring the shit out of me.

“I can’t...” I admit, sitting up, pulling a blanket over me, and sitting Indian style next to him. “What do you do when you can’t sleep?” I asked.

“Jerk off...” He said making it sound like a question.

“Oh my god...” I groaned.

He’s so annoying right now.

“I don’t know, Dawson... Count sheep or some shit...” He said.

I sigh again and rest my head on the back of the couch. It’s not comfortable but whatever.

“I thought about what you said...” He whispered.

“Hm?” I mumbled.

“Earlier, at the party... You asked what happened to us... I thought about it...” He said.

I wait for him to continue, but he doesn’t.

“And?” I asked.

“Nothing happened to us as a unit... As 2… friends… nothing changed... But that summer, things happened to us as individuals... We were never the same, so things could never be the same...” He explained.

“That makes no sense, Jason... Use real words and tell me... My mom died... My step-dad got rid of everything she owned... We moved away from any reminders of my old life... It’s like she never existed... What happened to you?” I said trying but failing to keep the snap out of my tone.

Jason laughed callously. It’s trauma he’s not yet faced, or dealt with, or acknowledged so it keeps resurfacing. I can tell by his voice, the way he stiffens, his change in demeanor.

“My mom didn’t leave us... Well, okay, she did... My parent’s were separating... She was also… murdered...”

My body freezes, I’m sunk into the couch, my head swims with confusion.

“What?” I whisper.

“Middle of July that summer... We were at my aunts... I found her when I woke up and—” Jason stops immediately, and I want so bad to reach out to him.

I want to grab his wrist and hold it to my heart. I want to rub circles onto his back and scrape his scalp with my fingernails. I want to press onto his heart, his soul, and remind him of all the good. I want to do to him what he never did to me.

“I found her in her bed... She had been stabbed 7 times and there was blood everywhere... I don’t remember a lot, but my aunt found me laying in bed with her...” He stops for a long time, and I think maybe he’s gone back to sleep somehow.

His revelation rolls around my mouth like a glass marble. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with it. It’s an awkward moment between 2 ex-friends that harbor so much pain, trauma, and loathing toward each other.

Why did he tell me tonight after all this time? What made him start treating me like a human?

“Isn’t that fucked up?” he asked. “I find my mom stabbed to death and lay in bed with her... Who knows, she may have even been alive... I could have called 9-1-1 but didn’t... Isn’t that fucked up?” His voice doesn’t break, but it’s laden with emotion: regret, shame, disappointment.

Jason’s still that 9 year old just as much as I am, but in a different way. What’s worse, watching your mom die slowly over time, knowing, waiting for the end. Or suddenly waking up to find her laying in a pool of her blood, dead?

“No, it’s not fucked up... It was your natural response to a trauma you couldn’t comprehend at 9...” I said.

He laughed because he doesn’t believe it. “You sound like my therapist...” He commented darkly.

“You’re in therapy?” I asked.

“Not since I was 12...” He replied.

“Oh...” I said unsure what to say.

“Shit wasn’t helping... I was only getting angrier and angrier...” He said.

I don’t know what else to say about this tonight, so I sit quietly and think. I should feel relief finally knowing, finally having the answers to questions I’ve asked myself for years, but I only feel immense sadness knowing what the crater in his heart is like after losing his mother.

Sadness seeps into my blood and down into my limbs knowing we both lost our moms and instead of holding each other through it, he pushed me away. I can understand why, I can see where he was mentally at nine after going through what he did, but it still stings.

A little while later, still shrouded in deep black from lack of light and coming down from the intense drunken haze, I ask Jason something I’ll never be able to ask in the light of day.

“Why didn’t you stop Megan tonight when you saw me?” I whisper, hoping he doesn’t hear.

“I have no fucking idea...” He tells me honestly.

I wake the next morning to voices from the love-seat. Knowing it’s Tara and Brandon, I stretch my limbs and open my eyes. I’m on the couch, stretched fully, head resting on something hard.

As I sit up, I notice Jason’s arm is on the back of the couch, and my head is on his chest. Surprised and also mortified, I sit up suddenly, and push myself away from the boy I slept on.

“What time is it?” I asked, disoriented.

“Just after 10...” Tara giggled. “You must have been so drunk to fall asleep on your arch nemesis like that...” Tara continues to tease.

I don’t divulge all that happened last night, I’ll save it for later. Instead, I give her a nod.

“I’m fucking starving...” Brandon announced. “Let’s get some breakfast...” He said.

Tara pops up and claps in excitement. “Can we go to the diner?” She asked, following him out of the shed and into the backyard.

My loud sigh and sudden movement jostle Jason awake. “Fuck, Dawson...” He yawned, stretching overhead.

“We’re going to the diner... Get up...” I tell him.

He sits on the couch and watches me straighten up. I fold the blankets and put them away, shut off the space heater, and fluff the pillows on the couches.

“That’s my sweatshirt...” He said when I turn back around.

“I’ll, uh, take it off when I change... Sorry... Brandon gave it to me...” I said.

“It’s cool...” He said coldly, sitting up, straightening his pants, and heading outside.

Blue skies and white clouds cause my hangover and eyes to pulse inside my head.

Inside Brandon’s house, he hands me and Tara 2 ibuprofen and a glass of water. I change back into last nights outfit and throw my curly hair into a high ponytail.

When we pull out of Brandon’s driveway to head to the diner, I notice no cars are parked in my driveway.

At the diner, we share waffles and pancakes and sausage links. Brandon and Jason drink coffee while I go for an iced cappuccino.

Jason hands the waitress his credit card before she delivers the bill, and he watches her walk away.

“Did you have fun last night?” Tara asks when Brandon drops us off at her house after breakfast.

“Yes, did you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yes! He snuck us downstairs and ate me out in the bathroom... It was killer...” She swoons.

“In the basement?” I asked.

“Yep...” She said. “He pulled my dress up and slid my panties to the side and told me not to look away... It was soooo fucking sexy... Have you ever cum in a guy’s mouth while looking at him?” She asked.

“Uh, no?” I remind her.

“Well, when you can, try it...” She said.

I take this opportunity to tell Tara about what I saw last night. I start from the beginning and explain what an absolutely crazy night it was, and I think I got way drunker than I thought I ever would, and that I watched Megan blow Jason in someone’s room.

“And he didn’t look away...” I explained. “Like at all... In fact, I’m pretty sure he told her to keep going or he’ll find another girl who will do it the way he likes...” I said.

“Oh, fuck...” Tara said, scrunching her nose in wild disbelief.

“I know!” I exclaimed.

“See, I told you...” Tara practically sings.

“Told me what?” I asked confused.

“He wants you...” She said.

“Tara, he doesn’t... He was just… I don’t know… really messed up... Probably didn’t know it was me or something...” I said in denial

It’s a lie. He confirmed he knew it was me last night.

“Or he wanted to show you what lies in your future...” She joked. I have to back away for a second. This is absurd.

“Tara Mathews, do you really think I’m going to get on my knees and suck Jason Morgan’s thing after everything he has put me through?” I ask incredulously.

She takes a minute to think, tapping her finger to her chin.

“Well you don’t have to get on your knees...” She said making me groan.

Later that day, Tara drops me off at home, and there are no cars in my driveway still. Relief floods me. I do some laundry, wash the dishes, and start on homework.

I’m still alone by the time evening rolls around, so I take a very long, very hot shower. I wash my hair twice and leave conditioner in for way longer than necessary.

I shave every square inch of my body until it’s smoother than silk. I paint my nails after the shower a pretty blue and apply a face mask.

I think about all the things Jason said to me last night.

In my room, I lock my door and change into a sweater and leggings before curling up in bed. I sort of want to go to the playground, but it’s getting too cold to stay for long, and if the boys are there I don’t want it to seem like I’m stalking them even though that’s my playground.

My bed swallows me up. Even though it’s older than hell, and really uncomfortable, it’s mine. I think back to the moments of last night as I close my eyes.

Jason’s humanizing moments, his laugh, the color of his cheeks when he talked to me, the clench of his jaw when Megan— Shit!

I wonder if I’ll ever get the image of Jason’s dick out of my mind. The curve, the smoothness, the thickness barely contained in Megan’s hand.

I swallow heavily and move my hand to my erect nipples. I almost never do this, but I feel a need to release in some way tonight.

I guide my right hand into my leggings and stroke the soft skin of my mound. I love the fresh shaved, smooth feeling. My fingers spread my lips and stroke my swollen nub softly.

The gentlest moan falls from my lips and I know this won’t take me any time at all. Rubbing circles harder and faster gets me there quicker, and I’m embarrassed to say that it’s his dick I picture as I bring myself to the edge.

It’s his dick I imagine touching that sends me over. I blame it on the fact that I have only seen 2 penises in person: one was Tim’s pencil dick and the other was Jason’s Adonis dick.

So you can imagine how the 1 caught my attention more so than the other. Just as I’m coming down, floating lighter with every slow swipe on my clit, my phone rings.

“Hello?” I answer before registering who called.

"Hailey!" Carl said excitedly.

“Oh, hey, Carl... What’s up?” I asked.

“I’m headed to a fire down in your neck of the woods... Come with, girl..." He’s practically begging at this point.

“Last 2 times I went to a party with you, they ended in fights... The odds aren’t very good, Carl...” I stated matter-of-fact-ly.

"Nah, it’ll be chill, promise... I won’t even drink or anything..." He said.

I’m not really doing anything anyways, so I agree. He says he’ll swing by to pick me up in 20, so I throw on some mascara, skinny jeans, a thin hoodie, and boots.

I think about sneaking out but remember no one’s home anyways.

Normally, I’d climb out of my window and make sure my rooms locked, and I should have done that tonight, too.

“Where are you going?” My dad asked from the kitchen table, catching me off guard.

I stumble back and nearly scream from the intrusion. When did he get home? And who’s that? At the table with my dad sits a man with slicked back hair, onyx against his pale skin, and green eyes.

He brightens up as he stares me down. Beaty eyes pretty much taste every ounce of skin on my body before he stands and walks over.

“Why, hello there...” The man said. I edge my way to the front door.

“Don’t be rude, Hailey... Say hello...” My dad says.

The threat in his voice is very real, but I can’t find my voice to say much of anything. Both of these men close in on me.

The panic in my chest rises so that I can only see the colors of shapes in front of me. My skin vibrates.

“Hailey, say hello to Raf...” My dad says again, reaching out to me and gripping my forearm with enough strength to snap my wrist in one movement.

His skin burns against mine, and even through the thin fabric of the sweatshirt, the pain sears.

“Hailey...” Raf said, tasting my name like it’s dessert.

Raf. The man Brandon and Jason warned me about. The man who rapes teenaged girls. The man who—

I break free suddenly, hissing in pain from pulling my arm from my dads. Fight, flight, or freeze. This time I’m not choosing freeze.

Outside, I run past the gravel driveway, in between my dad’s car and the black SUV. My legs carry me to Brandon’s driveway, but there aren’t any cars, and I want to get as far from here as possible.

I glance back at my house and notice the front door is shut and no silhouettes are in the windows watching me. I meet a car at the end of my street, and it’s Carl.

“Hey cutie...” He said as I climbed in.

The breath catch in my chest and throat and to him it’s like a just ran a marathon, but to me, I just ran for my life.

Carl leans over and kisses my cheek, and I barely feel it.

“Hi...” I whispered when he starts driving.

If he notices something is off, he doesn’t say it and I’m glad. I look through my phone, searching for Brandon’s number, but come up short.

"Can you send Brandon’s number?” ~Hailey

I text Tara.

I do a quick search for Jason’s number, but I know I don’t have it.

The party turns out to be a huge gathering of dozens of people. Some I know, some I don’t. There’s a big bonfire toward the edge of the field that’s lit up like Time’s Square, and then there are 2 littler fires spaced out, offering less light, less visibility, and more intimacy.

Looking around, I squint to see Jason and Daphne cuddled up around the big bonfire, and I think for a second I see Brandon, but Carl pulls me under his arm and kisses my head.

I’m so not in the mood for him, but I use him as a distraction until I can get to Brandon or Jason.

“Can I wear your hat?” I asked.

Tonight’s a night I don’t want to be recognized if I don’t have to be. He pulls it off and fits it to my head. I pull it down over my eyes.

“Drink?” He asked and I shake my head no, but he pours himself something.

I don’t say anything but internally I roll my eyes. We walk together to the smaller fire and sit on a log. He doesn’t ask dumb questions, but he keeps his arm around my shoulders as he drinks from his cup.

“You have very pretty hair...” He said in my ear.

His words should give me butterflies but don’t. Maybe it’s because I know he doesn’t like me like that or because of everything that’s happened this weekend.

“Thank you...” I tell him, lifting my head.

He lowers his lips to mine and we kiss. It’s soft and sweet, and when his tongue brushes against my lip, I pull away.

Normally, I would.

Tonight, his lips taste like battery acid in my stomach, and I just can’t.

“Hailey...” Carl started, looking back at me.

“Just need a little bit of space tonight... That’s all...” I explained, hoping it’ll shut him up.

I don’t regret coming here with him. Considering who my dad has at the house, he may have saved me from. I don’t even want to finish the thought.

“Look what the fucking cat dragged in...” A random boy I’ve never seen yells from across the fire.

When I look up, almost every spot is filled with people I’ve never met.

“Who are these people?” I asked Carl.

He shakes his head. “You don’t want to know... Come on...” He replied, standing.

“Oh, come on, Stokes... Have some fun... No one will tell Brandy... Promise...” The boy said, His hair is shoulder length and jet black like Carl’s.

Both have the same dark olive complexion and irritated look on their faces. It’s a pissing contest, and when Carl looses, unfortunately so do I.

He pulls me back down and drinks the rest of what’s in his cup. I think I hear him mutter an apology, but I’m not sure. To my right are 3 girls whisper/giggling quietly.

To the left are 2 boys and a girl watching the way Carl lowers his arm from the small of my back. Everything in me tells me to leave, but I don’t.

The leader of this freak show lights up a huge bong and passes it to the girls on my right.

“What strain is that?” I whispered to Carl whose eyes are glued to the guy in front of us.

He doesn’t answer. I know the bong is making it’s way around. I’ve been to enough parties to know what to expect now.

What did Jason say? What were the strains?

“Is that White, Carl?” He shakes his head. “Is it Dove?” He shakes his head again.

When the bong is passed to me, the group looks expectantly.

“And what do you know about White and Dove?” The guy asked, looking down at me from across the fire.

I have the hat on. He doesn’t know me. I ignore the boy and pass it to Carl but he won’t take it.

“Here...” I tell him.

His eyes apologize where his lips can’t. He’s forcing my hand. Carl isn’t giving me another option.

The boy in front of me laughs. “Don’t be shy...” He said with a smile.

Just as I put the opening to my mouth, I’m sort of shoved as a body squeezes in beside me and Carl.

“What the fuck are you doing here, loser?” Jason asked, grabbing the bong from my hands.

I look up, ready to give him my sass, but I see he’s not talking to me. His icy stare is set on the guy in front of us.

“Just dropping by... Heard my favorite boys were here... Saw Stokes here with this beautiful thing and wanted to see what all the fuss was about... Now I see...” The boy’s eyes lap at me like a spreading fire. I’m uncomfortable and mad that Carl is just sitting there.

“And what is that you see?” Jason asked, reaching into his pocket to find a lighter. “Because I don’t...” Jason states.

The boy raises his brow in question. “No?” The boy asked.

“All I see is broken girl with daddy issues and an affinity for bad boys... That your type, Adam?” Jason challenges.

“No... Isn’t it yours, Morgan?” The boy asked.

Jason sort of smirks and nods. “Seems as though it is...” Jason inhales and passes the bong to Carl.

My heart weeps, sinking slowly, dying in my stomach, through my fingertips, plopping on the ground like waste. The cuts from abuse, the bruise forming on my arm from my dad’s firm grip, the daddy issues don’t hurt nearly as much as this. I thought we were getting somewhere.

Jason turns to me and, over a lungful of smoke, breathes, “Do not breathe in...” He said quietly before leaning in to kiss me.

I close my eyes, waiting for his lips against mine, but they never come. Instead, his lips hover and his eyes watch my mouth as I suck the smoke into my mouth but not my lungs.

When he thinks I’ve had enough, he pulls back and releases the breath he’d been holding. Jason does something he never does when he smokes: He coughs.

I exhale immediately. The smoke tastes dirty, and my tongue feels numb. In fact, I’m a touch lightheaded, but it’s probably from this weird engagement I’m currently in.

“How’s Abby?” Jason asked the boy who I believe he called Adam.

Adam’s eyes narrow. “Perfect...” He said.

“Tell her I said hello...” Jason said. He stands and pulls me with him.

“Going to see what all the fuss is about?” Adam asked with a laugh.

Jason ignores him altogether. He doesn’t hold my hand, and I don’t know why I expect him to. Jason walks at a pace twice as brisk as I mine.

“Wait...” I call as he moves past our peers. “Jason...” I called again as he disappears into the darkness behind the house. “Please, wait!” I called again.

“What were you doing with them, Hailey?” Jason asked. “I told you to stay away from Carl... He’s no good, don’t you see that?” He snapped.

“I do now...” I tell him.

I can’t see Jason perfectly, but the moon shines just enough that I can make out his body pacing in front of me. His breathing increases with every step.

“Jason, who was that?” I asked.

He laughs cynically. “That was Raf’s son...” Jason stops and pulls his phone out, texting quickly. “We need to go...” He said suddenly.

I don’t question him. I follow Jason to his car and shake my head no as he tosses his keys at me.

“I can’t drive... I don’t have a license...” I said with slight panic.

“You’ll do fine...” He said, opening the door and falling into the passenger seat.

Then I see it. Sweaty palms, labored breathing.

“Jason, are you having a panic attack?” I asked quietly, putting my hand on his forearm. He’s clammy.

“No, Hailey. I’m not a pussy—” He stops himself with a shake of his head. “I’m reacting to the fucking—” he shakes his head again, handing his phone to me. “Call Brandon...” He said, more like demands but I ignore it.

I do. Nothing. I even call Tara. Nothing.

“Mother fucking God damn it!” The first blow scares me and I jump.

You think it’d be numb to aggression at this point in my life, but it surprises me coming from Jason. The second blow to the dashboard isn’t as scary, but it’s harder and I think I maybe hear the plastic crack.

I don’t ask him anymore questions. I drive the very short distance back to Jason’s hoping this is where he wants me to go. The entire trip, his leg bounces, his teeth grind, and he laugh-smirks every so often.

I want to ask him what’s so funny, but I’m too busy trying to figure out how to turn off the air conditioning in his car. It’s so cold I’m shivering. I pull into his driveway, and he’s out the door in seconds.

“Let’s go...” He said, marching up the steps and into his house.

We walk upstairs to his room and I stop myself at the threshold. This crosses a line. So did his lips mere centimeters away when we were at Greg’s, but this is more intimate than that.

This room is Jason. This is where he sleeps, and showers, and dresses, and spends his free time with who knows how many girls. This intimacy crosses a boundary neither of us are ready for.

“Hailey, just get the fuck in here...” He snapped.

Swallowing years of anger, depression, anxiety, and sorrow, I step into his room like I did when I was a little girl. The bed now sits beside the bay window that overlooks the overgrown entrance to the meadow.

A nightstand with a bottle of water holds a picture of something I can’t quite make out. Gray walls hold no pictures or posters. A desk and a leather couch are pushed up against another wall opposite the entrance to his bathroom.

“Stay the fuck away from Stokes, Hailey...” Jason said suddenly, pulling his shirt off and tossing it into his hamper. Next go his jeans that he replaces with joggers.

Jason throws a shirt and pants my way like I’m actually going to change. His shrug says suit yourself.

“What am I doing here, Jason?” I asked irritably after he sits on his leather couch, head resting behind him on the cushion, shirtless.

He laughs like something is funny. When he turns to meet my gaze, his black eyes scare me.

“I’m too fucked up to drive you home...” He said.

“Raf was at my house when I left...” I tell him flatly.

“What?” He asked, sitting up, tapping his toes, like he can’t get comfortable.

I tell Jason everything. I start with Carl’s call, not hearing a word from the downstairs, debating if I should keep my door locked and go out my window, or just leave down the stairs.

I tell him about the weird feeling Raf’s stare gave me and my dad’s hand on my arm. I tell him I ran. Jason grips my wrist loosely and pulls me down on the couch next to him. He pushes my sleeve up and already the dark markings of a strong thumb and four fingers color my skin.

I rub the spot his thumb gripped the hardest. Skin pushed against bone colors purple. I wish I would have punched him. I wish I would have kicked him, kneed him, beat him up for all the times he hurt me. I wish I was stronger.

Jason pulls my sleeve back down slowly and leans back, staring out the door leading to his balcony.

“Why do your eyes look like that?” I asked, coming to sit next to him on the couch.

He ignores my question.

“Why didn’t you call me or Brandon?” he asked.

“I didn’t have anyone’s phone number...” I replied.

Jason grabs my phone and texts himself from my phone.

“There, now you have it... Call me next time...” He said.

I roll my eyes. “Yes, dad...” I said.

“No, I’m serious, Hailey... Don’t fuck with Raf... Don’t look at him... Don’t speak to him... Don’t even breathe near him...” Jason stated sternly.

I reflect on his words. Talk to Raf or call Jason for help. 2 things I definitely don’t want to do. Ever. After a few minutes, Jason turns to me.

“Did you inhale?” He asked.

“No, why?” I asked.

“I told you not to smoke it if it wasn’t—” He began but I cut him off.

“Dove or white... I know... I asked Carl...” I said.

“And you were still going to?” Jason questioned.

“I didn’t know what to do... Carl was no help and that guy was just staring at me... I tried giving it to Carl, but he wouldn’t take It...” I explained.

“Fucking Adam...” Jason growled out a grumble.

“Was it just weed?” I asked.

Jason shakes his head. “Laced with something... Probably cocaine and whatever else he could find under his kitchen sink...” He snapped at no one in particular.

“Cocaine? Jesus, Jason, are you okay?” I asked.

No wonder his heart is racing and his eyes are darker than black.

“It’s not so bad... I’ve snorted a few times before... It was definitely laced with something else, though... Adam loves money so much he’ll deal dirty shit... Especially to unsuspecting girls... Like father like son...” He stated.

“Is that why you didn’t want me to—” I began to ask.

“He was going to get you high off your ass and take you back to his house... That’s what he’s known for...” Jason said as his leg bounces with unrelenting energy.

“Why did you say all the stuff… the, uh, the daddy issues comments?” I asked with a small voice. I hate how weak I sound.

“Adam fucking hates daddy drama... I guess because he’s got enough of his own... He won’t touch you with a 10ft pole if he knows that...” Jason looks over at me but through me.

He’s higher than I’ve ever seen him right now, but it’s different. He’s unfocused, but able to speak coherently.

“I had to say all that stuff... I’m sorry...” When he whispers the last part, my heart swells so large it literally hurts.

The tips of my fingers shoot tingles up and down my arms like rocket ships. That was unexpected. I nod and we sit in silence.

When Jason stands to turn his bedroom light off and his lamp on, I see the outline of his—

“Tell me why you keep fucking around with Carl...” He’s assertive and pissed when he comes back.

“I don’t know...” I answered.

“Bullshit... Tell me, Hailey...” He snapped.

I shrugged because I really don’t know. “I’ve told you before... He’s easy… Well, he was easy...” I said.

“You just want a hookup?” He asked like he can’t believe it.

I nod because I guess so, but it’s embarrassing to admit. Jason flaunts it in front of everyone. He pushes girls against lockers and kisses them in the hallway. He saunters up to them at parties and whispers against their neck.

He gets blowjobs in unlocked rooms at random house parties. I don’t do any of that, so to admit that I want to have fun, to be free, to feel good like that is embarrassing.

Studious Hailey wants to have sex… but I’m not telling him that.

“Fair enough, but I’d find it elsewhere... If this didn’t prove you can’t trust him then I don’t know what will...” Jason said as he leaned back on his deep couch and closes his eyes for the 10th time in 20 minutes.

I curl into myself, bringing my legs to the side and under, wishing like hell there was a blanket I could hide in.

“He’s easy because he doesn’t know me...” I whispered.

Edward’s quiet for a moment and I think we’re off the subject, but then he responds.

“Carl knows more than he lets on... He’s a snake just like the rest of the kids in The Valley... Don’t be so naïve...” He said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean he only wants a piece of your ass...” Jason’s blunt, but I like the transparency.

“I know, we already talked about it...” I said.

“So you just want to fuck?” Jason asked.

I guess he wants transparency from me too, so I shrug. “Not necessarily that, but a hook up, yeah...” I admit with embarrassment.

“Why?” He asked. It’s a strained question, and I feel weird answering it considering where our relationship has been the last few years.

“Why not? Everyone else does it... Tara does, Brandon does, you do… I want to feel—” In this moment, I stop myself.

What do I want to feel? Alone? Not myself? Different?

“Free?” He finishes my thought.

After thinking about it for a moment, I nodded, “Yeah, I want to feel free...” I whisper.

His leg bounces, shaking the cushions on the couch. I watch the color drain and fill and drain and fill in his hand as he clenches and releases. Breaths struggle in and out in a jagged pace inside his lungs. He has me slightly worried.

“What can I do?” I asked, turning my body toward his.

“You can never fucking speak to Carl Stokes again...” Jason answered plainly.

I rolled my eyes. He’s such a pain.

“No, I mean about now... What do you want me to do? How can I help?” I asked.

“I’m good—” He said but I cut him off.

“You’re sweating and breathing hard and—” I began but he cuts me off this time.

“I’m fine, Hailey... I’m—” he paused and readjusted himself, pulling on the fabric around his inner thigh before continuing. “I’m controlling myself...” He finally said.

“Controlling yourself from what?” I asked.

An irritated sigh falls from his lip and he stands abruptly, pacing the expanse of his large room. His long legs get him from one end to the other in 7 big strides. I’ve never felt smaller.

“You’re so—.” He takes a deep breath, thinking before speaking. “You’re so innocent... I’m not used to being around—” He began to say but I cut him off.

“I am not...” I protested like he just called me the dirtiest name in the book. “I’m a 17 year old girl whose step-dad—” I began but he cut me off.

“No... You’re not that... Don’t you dare let him define anything about you...” Jason pauses, gripping his hair and grabbing his neck. “He is not you... He does not define you... You are innocent as much as you don’t want to admit it... Brandon and I… We make thousands a month selling drugs to loser kids spending their parent’s money... I smoke weed every fucking day to dull the itch... I put my dick in any girl that smiles at me... I control every part of my life... I let you watch some girl suck my dick at a party for fucks sake... Innocent isn’t a bad thing, so don’t take it as that... Innocent is—” and he finally breathes after talking a mile a minute. “Innocent is the freshest air I’ve inhaled in a while, Hailey...” He said.

Long fingers rake through messy hair, and he exhales. He watches me every few seconds, and I lick my lips anxiously.

“Coke makes me feel powerful...” Jason continued, changing the subject. “I do dumb shit on it... I’m trying very hard not to—” He stops suddenly, turning to rifle through his drawers.

“To what?” I asked.

His chuckle makes the ants in my stomach scatter. “To fuck up your innocence...” He said.

When he turns back around, he’s got more sweats and a tee shirt in his hand. Jason looks me up and down 2 or 3 times before swallowing hard.

“I’m going to shower... You take the bed tonight... I’ll sleep on the couch or something...” He stated.

I don’t get a chance to respond. He’s in the bathroom, slamming the door.

When the water turns on, I finally breathe. This is the weirdest shit that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been in this room a thousand times before, but never like this.

It feels wrong, taboo even. I don’t even let myself think about the fact that he’s naked not even 10ft away. Patting the worn leather of the couch, I wonder how old it is. He definitely didn’t have this when we were younger.

I notice the TV on the stand and some game consoles underneath. Everything is picked up and put away neatly. I think about just taking the couch for the night, but I know he’ll probably get mad I directly disobeyed his request, so I stand and walk over to the bed.

Afraid to disturb anything, I lay my body on the dark comforter, turn my back to the bathroom door, and put my arms inside my shirt for warmth. I close my eyes and try not to think about Jason in the shower, or Tara with Brandon, or what might have happened if Jason didn’t show up tonight.

I never planned to fall asleep, but my eyes grow heavy while the water continues to run in the shower. I know I’ll wake up when he emerges, so I let my eyes close to sleep lightly just for now.

I wake gasping for air, sweat coating my arms, wrapped in a blanket. Sitting up, I clutch my neck until my breathing slows and then I shove the blankets off of me.

Jason isn’t on the couch where he said he’d be, nor is he in this room at all. I haven’t had a nightmare like that in weeks. When my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see the door across from his bed is open, so I peak outside.

He’s got black joggers and a hoodie on, hood pull up loosely, and a bottle of something on the floor. I squint to make out the label, but its black and my eyes haven’t fully adjusted.

“Jason?” I whisper-croak.

He responds by pulling a lounge chair over by his foot, lining it up next to his, and extending the bottle to me. I hesitate but then he shakes the bottle impatiently. The lounge chair creaks under my weight and I pause before settling slowly.

The last thing I want to do is break his stuff with my fat ass. Taking the bottle from his hands, I see it’s watermelon flavored vodka and giggle. He doesn’t say anything.

The burn tastes nothing like watermelon and everything like vodka. I take 3 more sips before capping it and passing it back. Just as the effects take place, numbness in my tongue and the tips of my fingers, Jason clears his throat.

“What was it about?” He asked. His lazy words tell me he’s been out here sipping from the half-full bottle for a while.

“What was what about?” I asked.

“Your nightmare...” He stated.

“Life...” I answered honestly.

He passes the bottle again, which I take quicker this time, and down 3 bigger sips.

“It’s scary when you can’t tell them apart...” He said.

“Tell what apart?” I asked.

“Life and your nightmares...” He stated. I only nod, but I know he can’t see it. “Sun rises over there,” he says, pointing to the left. “Can’t see it that great from here, but whatever...” He said.

The sky turns from midnight ink to dark blue over time.

I straighten my back in the chair, causing the lounger to groan again.

“I’m about to break this freaking thing...” I said through a laugh.

“You won’t...” He said.

“Do you hear it?” I asked, shifting my weight from side to side. “It’s like an orchestra...” I said.

He laughs and shakes his head. “It’s had more weight on it than whatever you weigh...” He stated.

“Jason, I probably weigh more than you...” I said.

He offers the bottle and I take it again. “You don’t...” His voice sounds like an eye roll. “Do you weigh more than me and Daphne?” He asked before I got a chance to respond.

“Ew, gross, Jason...” I complained, standing suddenly. I lean to the right then the left before ultimately landing onto my knees.

I find this absolutely hilarious, but, surprise surprise, Jason doesn’t.

“You fucked her out here?” I asked through giggles. “Didn’t you get caught?” I asked still giggling.

When he stands, he doesn’t stumble like I do. Jason pulls me up under my arm pits.

“No...” He answered.

I push him away and walk around the balcony. He never used to have this, or maybe I just don’t remember.

Being 8, we didn’t care about adult things like sitting on a balcony and contemplating life. Walking to the edge, I notice a ladder going down. Convenient.

“Who else did you fuck out here?” I asked, surprising even myself.

“No one...” He said.

“Just Daphne?” I asked.

“I never fucked Daphne out here...” He stated.

“You just said—” I began but he cut me off.

“I said I fucked her on that thing...” He’s speaking in circles.

“So then—” I began to asked but Jason laughed and followed me around the large patio balcony as I peer over and look at what’s below.

“I fucked her on that stupid thing in like 10th grade when my dad had it down below... I don’t fuck girls in my bedroom...” He stated matter-of-fact-ly.

“Never?” I asked skeptically.

“Never...” He said, stepping closer to me. “Well, except a few weeks ago, Daphne tried riding me on my couch but I fell asleep...” He said with a shrug.

“You fell asleep?” I can’t help the surprised laugh that claws out of my throat. “You fell asleep? How does that happen?” I asked.

He shrugs but smiles.

While it’s still dark, he’s standing close enough that I can see some of the blue around his dilated pupils and relief washes through me.

“I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before... She followed me home from school... I fell asleep in like 20 seconds... I don’t even think the rubber was rolled all the way down before I passed out...” It’s a very matter of fact story, and I thoroughly enjoy it when he explains how upset Daphne was.

“So, is her vagina like really loose, or dry, or what?” I asked.

He leans against the railing with me and looks out into the trees. “Both...” he says, sipping from the bottle.

I grab it from his hands and shake my head. “Poor girl...” I said as I downed a bigger mouthful.

The slight drunkenness I have right now numbs the pungent taste, so the liquid slides down easier.

“Are you saying yours isn’t?” He asks lowly, teasing.

His eyes meet mine and when I lick my lips, he smirks.

“My what?” I asked, forgetting all train of thought.

“Your pussy...” He enunciates, moving closer. “Is it loose and dry like hers?” He asked.

Find out my tongue wants to scream, but I choke the words back down because they scare me.

“No...” I tell him automatically.

How am I supposed to know?

The heat from the vodka and this conversation lights up my face, my chest, my belly. Now Jason Morgan knows my vagina isn’t dry or loose. Not that he ever cares to find out, I’m sure.

“Hello?” Jason asked, and I before I can answer him, I notice the phone to his ear. “Yeah, come over... There’s some shit we need to discuss...” He pauses for a minute, his eyes on mine now. “Yeah, bring your girlfriend, too...” He said.

I can hear Brandon in the background when Jason ends it. Jason’s comment makes me laugh. Tara pretty much is Brandon’s girlfriend.

Neither of them have seen anyone else in weeks, they spend more time together than she lets on, and they kiss so slow it makes my loins hurt. I always look away, but not before Brandon’s hand touches her cheek or her chin or her hair.

Jason says nothing else about my vagina, and I’m relieved. In the 10 minutes it takes Brandon and Tara to arrive, Jason questions me about my dad.

“Is your room locked?” He asked.

“No, I left out the front door...” I replied.

“Is there a way to tell he, or anyone else, has been in there?” He asked.

I think for a minute and my heart starts double beating. “I put a towel on my doorknob before I left... If someone turns the knob, the towel will fall off... That’s the only way to know...” I explained.

Jason nods and takes a small drink before offering it to me. I place my lips against the edge where his just were. It’s warm and wet, and when he looks away, I run my tongue against it.

Oh my god, I’m being way too weird. In fact, this is way too weird. I’m in Jason Morgan’s room, on his balcony, while he’s high off of some laced weed that he saved me from smoking.

“Thank you...” I tell him quickly.

“For?” He asked confused.

“Earlier... For what you did at the fire... You took the weed and smoked it... You helped me..” I tell him quietly. “Thank you, Jason...” I said honestly.

He purses his lips and nods. “You’re welcome...” He said, clearing his throat like the words burn him.

For a moment or 2, we just look at each other. I can see him. In the dark dawn, I see him clear as day. He stares back, understanding I was never the enemy he painted me to be. At least, that’s what I think he’s seeing and feeling.

“Hailey, I’m really so—” But Jason can’t finish his train of thought because a very excited Tara bounds onto the balcony.

“Oh my fucking god...” She mewls. “This is, like, beautiful...” Tara looks around at the view. Trees, forests, stars, the moon.

“How much has she had?” I ask Brandon who follows her outside.

“Not much, just like 3 or 4 shots… On the way over...” Brandon’s shrug is sarcastic and when I punch his arm, he acts wounded.

Jason passes the bottle to Tara who links her arm through mine and pulls me inside with the boys as they talk.

“Carl brought Hailey to the bonfire with Adam’s crew... His shit was laced... I could tell when I took a hit—” I heard Jason start telling Brandon until Brandon cut him off.

“The fuck?” Brandon asked. “Why’d you take a hit of his shit?” He added.

Jason’s looking at me when I’m looking at him and he winks so fast I nearly miss it. He fucking winks. Jesus fucking Christ, I think my nipples could etch my name into a piece of glass right now. What the hell is happening to me.

Tara grips my arm, the same arm my dad bruised, and I hiss. She drops me suddenly and stares in surprise.

“I’m sorry, you caught me off guard...” I tell her.

It’s not a lie. She did. But also, it hurt like hell.

Brandon and Jason talk in private on the couch while Tara and I sit Indian style on the floor. She tells me about her night with prince charming over there and how he took her to this place in the woods and they just hung out, talking all night.

I want to ask her what they’re waiting for, but whatever, I don’t want to meddle. When I ask her if he was at the bonfire, because I could have sworn I saw him, she shakes her head no.

After a while, Tara goes to grab the bottle from Jason. “Let’s play a game...” Jason said.

“Truth or Dare!” Tara squeals, grabbing pillows from Jason’s bed and plopping them on the floor.

Tara and Brandon sit next to me, leaving Jason across from me. We sit together in a square, sharing a bottle of Watermelon vodka, and a weird Saturday night.

“Brandon, truth or dare?” Tara asked.

“Truth...” He answers.

“How many girls have you slept with?” She asked.

“Woah, pulling out the big guns already...” I teased, leaning across and grabbing the bottle from next to Jason.

At this point, the sun is just barely cresting outside. It’s still dark enough for the lamp to be needed, but bright enough to realize it’s almost morning.

Brandon quietly counts to himself, “11...” He said.

“Okay, not bad...” Tara said with a nod.

Not bad? I don’t know, that seems like a lot to me.

“Hailey...” Brandon said. “Truth or dare?” He asked.

“Um...” I mumble, looking around at everyone’s eyes. “Truth...” I said.

Brandon smiled and nodded softly. “Do you have a vibrator?” He asked.

My eyes widen. I am completely taken aback from his question. “No!” I sputtered out.

“You owe me...” He said pointedly towards Tara.

“What happened to that pink one we bought together last year?” She asked, throwing me under the bus.

“It stopped working...” I tell her.

“Did you wear it out?” Jason asked, teasingly.

“No! I mean it never worked, really...” I said and I can feel the embarrassment across my cheeks. “Tara, truth or dare?” I asked, knowing already what her answer is.

“Dare...” She replied.

“I dare you to suck Brandon’s big toe...” I said.

She rolls her eyes and bends over. Her fingers pry off Jasper’s sock before she sucks his toe into her mouth and looks up at him

“I think I’m going to throw up...” Jason said, holding his stomach. ”

Okay, you did that way too easily...” I gagged.

“Jason, truth or dare?” Tara asked.

“Dare...” Jason said.

“I dare you to strip down to your boxers...” She said, or more like demanded.

He looks at her in annoyance but doesn’t back down. He pulls off the joggers and tee shirt before sitting cross legged again in his black boxers. I study his inked skin before he calls me out.

“Hailey, truth or dare?” He asked.

Everyone’s dares, plus the amount of liquid courage, “Dare...” I find myself saying.

His smirk warns me. “I dare you to kiss…” oh no oh no oh no, “Tara...” He said.

Tara giggles and grabs my face. “Wait! You just had Brandon’s toe in your mouth!” I panicked.

“Not just a peck on the lips... I mean kiss her...” Jason said, sitting back.

Tara grabs the back of my head kisses me hard. At first it’s closed but then she touches her tongue to my lips, and I open up. Our tongues battle in a heated, weird kiss. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not good. I feel the sharp points of her nails against my scalp as she pulls me closer. We kiss for another moment or 2 before I push her away.

“Well...” Tara started, “I can say with certainty that I definitely didn’t get off on that...” She finished.

“Hey!” I protested.

“You’re not a bad kisser...” She said, “I just didn’t even get a tingle down there...” She said with a shrug like its no big deal.

Jason smirks a chuckle and I roll my eyes. “Yeah, well, me neither...” I said.

We play for another few minutes before the real fun begins.

Jason asked me how many guys I’ve hooked up with, I tell him the truth. 2.

But I didn’t ask him to define what hooking up meant, so he’ll never know my virgin status.

He nods.

I ask Brandon who his last girlfriend was.

He said ′no one′ and Tara doesn’t even bat an eye.

Tara asked Jason how many girls he’s slept with, and he says 17.

Brandon asked Tara why she doesn’t like anal sex. “Who says I don’t?” She responds. “Hailey...” Tara starts, taking a swig from the bottle.

We’re all pretty toasted. The room spins in a good way, and I begin to enjoy the warm feeling of my cheeks and toes and everything in between.

“Truth or dare?” She asked.

“Dare...” I giggle.

“I dare you to kiss Brandon!” She exclaimed.

“What? No way!” I protested.

“Yes, do it!” She encourages.

Brandon’s already meeting me more than halfway. My eyes find Jason’s as Brandon’s lips descend.

It’s soft and warm and while Brandon’s not drunk, I am. It’s sloppy, and his tongue just barely grazes mine before he pulls away.

“Truth or dare, Jason...” Brandon said, meeting Tara’s eyes with a smirk.

“Dare...” Jason said his eyes are on mine.

“I dare you to kiss Hailey...” Brandon said.

Jason leans over before I even register what Brandon’s saying.

“No...” I protest, holding out my hand.

“Oh, come on...” Tara said in disappointment.

“No...” I said again. It’ll be weird.

“You’ve kissed everyone else here...” She protests.

I don’t want to tell her, in front of Jason, that we’re just getting back into a spot where we can tolerate each other. Kissing will make it difficult, right?

I chance a look at Jason. He’s on his knees, in his stupid boxers, his broad shoulders and collar bones jut out all muscularly. I see the smallest black tattoo on his ribcage and it’s his moms name.


“No tongue...” I tell him, and he nods.

He leans forward and so do I. In the middle, between our friends, Jason’s lips find mine in the softest, most delicate kiss I’ve ever felt or seen. My hand finds its way to his shoulder, and his to the ends of my hair. He opens his mouth, but never gives me his tongue. The kiss is quick and chaste and smoldering. Feather soft and tingly.

He tastes like hot watermelon and boy heat and the best dare in all of history. I don’t want to say anything now, or ever, but that was the best kiss I’ve ever had. The thought alone freaks me the fuck out.

The second he sits back down, Jason presses on like it’s no big deal. “Tara, truth or dare?” He asked.

“Truth...” Tara said.

“Did you really let Marcus lick peanut butter off your ass last year?” He asked.

Tara passes out somewhere between the kiss and Brandon singing the theme song to Dawson’s Creek.

When she’s out, I cover her with a blanket and step out onto the balcony. The sun begins coloring the sky, and I can tell the boys want to talk in private. Alone, and thankful I brought this blanket outside, I lay on the lounge chair and let sleep find me.

What feels like moments later, I’m awoken by a hand on my shoulder and a body kneeling down. It’s Jason. He’s in a sweatshirt and black skinnies.

“What?” I groaned, covering back up with the blanket.

Heat and warmth and expensive cologne fill my senses. This blanket smells like him.

“Time to wake up, Princess...” Jason said, shaking me again.

“Where’s Tar?” I asked over a yawn.

“They left a few hours ago...” He said.

Hours ago?′ I yelled internally as I opened my eyes wider and take note of the darkened sky. It’s going to rain any minute.

“What time is it?” I asked.

“Just after 11...” He replied.

I wake slowly and make it inside just before the rain starts. I help Jason fold blankets and straighten up. It’s weird I’m in here, right? It feels weird I’m in here.

He definitely thinks it’s weird I’m in here, “Come on, I’ll take you home...” He said.

We run to his car and out of the rain, but my hair’s still soaked when I step into the car. He runs a hand through his hair, but it sticks straight up still. It’s quiet on the way back to my house, and when we pull in, no cars are in my driveway.

He parks and turns off his car. “Can I look at your room?” He asked quietly.

“Um, why?” I asked.

“I want to make sure... I want to see if anything is off...” He replied.

“Oh, um, okay...” I started, getting ready to open the door.

“Let’s wait for the rain to die down... We have to climb in to see if the towel was moved, right?” He said.

I had forgotten all about that. “Right...” I said with a nod. “Your eyes look better...” I tell him.

The black is nearly gone, but his pupils are still enlarged.

“As opposed to, what, looking bad?” He asked, teasingly.

I roll my eyes in annoyance. “You know what I mean, Jason...” I said shaking my head.

The rain slows minimally over the next few minutes, and my phone dings with a text from Tara.

"Call. Me. Immediately.” ~Tara

"Give me 20.” ~Hailey

Now’s a perfect time to bring up last night, to apologize for drunken mistakes like the kiss, but I don’t and neither does he. Maybe he doesn’t even remember. Maybe he thinks I don’t remember, but how will I ever forget the sear of his lips?

Anger floods me because I shouldn’t feel like this, not about him. Not after everything. How am I going to explain this to Tara?

I take the next few minutes of quiet to relax and breathe. Jason’s different now, right? He’s trying, right? But for how long? 5 minutes later, there’s a lull in the downpour, so we hurry over to my window.

“New bike?” He asked.

I smiled. “Yeah, from Tara...” I said.

He smirks and nods. “Is that right?” He asked.

I climb up and he follows much slower than me. I move aside, afraid to look, but Jason’s sigh tells me everything I need to know.

“How sturdy are these locks?” He asked as I look at the towel laying on the ground.

I shrug nervously. “I don’t know...” I answered honestly.

“Has your dad ever tried to get in while these were locked?” He asked.

“A few times... He was too drunk to have any strength though...” I answered.

Jason nodded and looked around. “Anything else look out of place?” He asked.

Glancing around, I take a quick sweep. My bed’s still made, the closet door is closed, dresser looks okay.

“Seems okay...” I tell him softly, leaning against the wall.

Jason sits on my bed as the wind and rain pick up outside. I rush to close the window before sitting next to him on the bed.

“Hailey, I want to—” He stops himself with a shake of his head. “What I mean is I’m really sor—.” He stops again. Angry he can’t get the words right, he just spits it out. “I’m fucking sorry!” Jason’s chest heaves and he nearly gasps for air that it seems he’s been deprived of for years. But, his apology isn’t an easy fix.

“Why?” I asked.

“What?” He asked, looking over at me.

“Why are you sorry?” I asked, I’m angry, period, but mostly about last night.

I’m angry at the kiss, and the way it made me feel, the way I want it to happen again, and knowing it never will. I’m angry, and I give it back to him.

Jason blows out a loud, long breath and stays quiet for a while. I guess he wasn’t prepared to answer why. I guess he expected an easy ′it’s okay′ after last night.

“For literally every fucking thing I’ve ever done or said to you...” His chest heaves with his confession. “For being a complete fucking idiot after I came back... My mom died, too, and we could have, I don’t know, leaned on each other or some shit... I was so hurt... My heart was fucking splintered, Hailey... I know you know what that feels like... Of all the people in this earth, the only one in my life who could possibly imagine the pain I was going through was the one person I fucking tormented...” He said as he grit his teeth.

“Maybe that’s why you did it...” I said.

“What do you mean?” He asked looking at me like I grew a 2nd head.

“Maybe you didn’t want to be understood... Maybe it was easier if you wallowed in your depression, and sadness, and fear... Maybe you wanted to feel like—” I began to say until he cut me off.

“I wanted to feel like that, is that what you’re going to say? If so, then you can fuck right off, Hailey... Why would anyone want to feel like that?” Jason’s belligerent anger doesn’t scare me.

It’s a tactic and a motive and his only way of expressing himself. So I take it in stride because I’m getting to know him better.

“It’s the only feeling you could associate with your last memory of your mom...” I tell him simply. “I’m not saying you love feeling like whatever it is that you feel, but maybe it was easier than accepting and moving on... Maybe you feel like moving on meant forgetting, and that’s more painful than anything... Trust me, I get it...” I explained.

Jason’s silence screams in this room. Rain pelts the shitty siding of this old house, making it 10 times louder. Jason stands quickly and grips his fingers into a tight fist. He wants to punch something, but he won’t. This isn’t his room.

When he calms back down, he stands in front of me, running a hand through his brown-copper locks. His bicep twitches under the zip up hoodie he’s wearing.

“I’m sorry for all the stupid fucking things I’ve said to you... You didn’t deserve my anger, but I gave it anyways... I knew what you were going through... I felt what you were going through... For years I tormented you at school and then you’d come home and be tormented here... It’s unfair, and I’m sorry...” His words bring tears to my eyes, and I angrily wipe them away as they spill.

Little rivers cascade down my cheeks, and my nostrils flare as I try my best to keep the dam at bay. Jason sits on my bed, but further away so he can watch as I cry.

“And the last thing—” he starts before taking a breath. “You need to know, Hailey… All those names I called you… All those childish names… I never meant a word...” He said.

I can’t help but laugh through my tears. It’s not the funny laugh, it’s the yeah-freaking-right laugh. It’s the I-don’t-believe-a-word-you’re-saying laugh.

“I mean it...” He said calmer. “I called you fat, chubby, ugly, overweight—” He said but I have to stop him.

“You don’t have to remind me... I was there, remember?” I said with a snap in my tone.

“You aren’t those things, and knowing I’ve given you some sort of complex about it pisses me off so fucking much... I’ll spend the rest of my life convincing you that you’re not fat if I have to...” He said.

This time I do laugh because it’s funny and absurd. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jason... I was fat then, I’m sort of fat now, and I might be fat when I’m older... There’s not a whole lot to prove...” I said.

Jason sighs and shakes his head. “Tim told me in 10th grade you have the kind of hips you hold onto from behind... Greg told me last year he’d love to feel your waist dip as he fucked you from the side... I overheard Marcus fucking Daniels telling another guy he’d love to flip up your skirt and eat you out from behind... Steven used to describe how he’d love for you to wrap your thighs around his neck as he—” He said until I couldn’t take it anymore

“Okay, Jason, enough...” I tell him. This is stupid and nonsensical and really embarrassing.

“Hailey, everyone thinks you’re really—” He began but I can’t take his words.

“Don’t...” I warned him.

The tears won’t stop and I hate crying in front of people.

“Pretty,” He finishes anyways.

Embarrassingly, I can’t stop the sobs that wrack my body. The only person who has called me that in almost 10 years is Tara, so hearing it from Jason has me feeling so messed up.






But most of all, comforted.

Okay so that was the new chapter.

As you see this is why it took so long, because the chapter was that long.
I honestly didn't know where to end the chapter so it ended up being longer then expected.
Now I will ask nicely, again, Please do not comment "Please update" or anything with asking about an update.
I will get to it when I get a chance and the time.
Please respect my request.
I'm not doing this to be mean or as someone put it "An Ass" about it all.
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