It is a proven fact that a boy who goes straight for your neck in a make-out session is nothing short of a fuckboy.
Lindsey, my best friend, doesn’t seem to mind, though. Her eyes are closed, and her hands roam Cyrus’s back while he slurps at her neck like she is his favorite ice cream in danger of melting at any second. He stops here and there to nibble, causing Lindsey to smile in delight. They’ve either forgotten that Romina, Simon, and I are here with them, or they don’t mind the audience. I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.
“Gross, Linds, cut it out.” I roll my eyes and lightly kick at her across the Ferris Wheel car, causing us to sway back and forth. Cyrus pries himself away and leans over the rail to survey the people below. Lindsey, meanwhile, wipes at her neck with a tissue she pulls from her purse. Sorry Ellie, she mouths to me, still with a smile on her face. She combs her fingers through her long black hair, soothing the rumples.
“Man, the view from up here is ridiculous,” Cyrus says, as our car gently sways. He starts humming a song to himself and tapping his fingers on the side of the car. It’s the perfect end-of-summer night, aside from the dark, rumbling storm clouds in the distance. We’re stopped at the top of the wheel, and the ocean stretches out before us. A soft breeze blows through the car, fluttering my hair into my face.
Next to me, Romina is gripping the side of the carriage with all of the strength in her tiny body. Her knuckles are turning white from the force, and her curly brown locks, usually shiny and in place, are plastered to her forehead.
“You okay, Ro?” I lean toward her. On the other side of her, Cyrus’s cousin Simon rubs her back and lowers his shoulders to let her fall into him. Leave it to Simon to always be there to comfort us. How he doesn’t have a boyfriend is beyond me. His striking green eyes, long eyelashes, and mop of curly, brown hair are swoonworthy, not to mention he’s a total sweetheart.
Romina nods and closes her eyes. “I just don’t understand why we have to stop at the top when there’s a storm coming.” She takes a deep breath and rolls her eyes. “I mean, we could all get hit by lightning. Doesn’t anyone want to be safe?”
The ride kicks into gear again and we slowly make our way around the turn, stopping again before reaching the bottom. Romina winces and clenches the side tighter, muttering words in Spanish under her breath. I pat her knee, then lean out over the rail too, scanning the people below for a sign of Max, my boyfriend. We’ve been together for three months; he started a new job at his father’s landscaping company last month, and since then, things have been quiet between us. We’ve barely talked, other than the occasional “what’s up” text and simple messages back and forth on instant messenger. I ache for one of his bear hugs. I’d asked him to come tonight, to celebrate the end of the summer with my friends. He hadn’t seemed thrilled, and I think it’s because he doesn’t like my friends. Whenever we’d hang out with them, he seemed uncomfortable, like his skin was made of the kind of sweater material that makes your arms itch uncontrollably. I’m hoping that a night out with us would make things better.
We start moving again, and reach the bottom of the ride. Romina breathes a sigh of relief when it’s our turn to disembark, and the five of us slide out.
“Where to next?” Simon asks, looking around the pier. His eyes sparkle in the pier’s lights. “I’ve got a mighty hankering for some fried dough.”
“Can you not speak like you’re eighty, please?” Lindsey pulls her phone and some lip gloss from her purse, and reapplies. She puckers her lips, now a shiny rose color, and bats her brown eyes. Ammunition for the next round of the slurp fest, I’m sure.
Simon shrugs. “I’m seventy, actually.”
Lindsey glares at him and puts her phone away. “I could eat,” she says, looping her arm with Cyrus’s. He smiles, his deep blue eyes crinkling at the edges.
“I like the sound of fried dough,” I joke. My stomach growls in agreement as I retrieve some singles out of my pocket.
We make our way to the food stand, through the crowds of people playing Skeeball, ring toss, and a squirt gun game. We wait in line, standing behind a family with two small children. The parents look one tantrum away from keeling over. The smaller child, a boy of about five, asks his father for a frozen lemonade with his fried dough.
His father grimaces. “You shouldn’t have so much sugar.”
The boy’s mouth puckers into a frown and tears threaten at the corners of his eyes. The father’s face falls. He sighs. “Oh, alright. Of course you can have lemonade, too.”. The boy smiles and grabs his father’s hand. Oh, the early stages of manipulation.
I refocus on negotiations with my stomach. The smell of fried deliciousness makes my mouth water, and I list the pros and cons of the topping choices in my mind. On the one hand, cinnamon is comforting, like sitting by the fire at Christmas. On the other hand, powdered sugar, mixed with the butter from the dough, is nothing short of a heavenly experience. But would the mess be worth it? Maybe I’ll just get both.
“Hey, Ellie, isn’t that Max?” Romina points down the pier. I turn, my heart flipping in anticipation. Sure enough, Max’s brown hair and muscular build stand out against the crowd of small children and stressed out parents, and I can’t help but smile. He made it.
I forget my thoughts of food and run over to him, giddiness and longing fueling my sprint. Our senior year starts Monday, and our thoughts will be focused on college, classes, and making sure senioritis doesn’t overtake us. One night together, after a month of next to nothing, will help kick the year off in the right way.
I’m halfway to him when a platinum blond ponytail bobs up and down, a high-pitched squeal following. “Oh Max, it’s so cute!” The sticky-sweet smell of cotton candy fills my lungs, and Tiffani Spider, resident mean girl and my sworn enemy, rises to her tiptoes to kiss Max, my boyfriend, on the cheek. She wraps her arms around his waist and he leans down to kiss her on the forehead. A stuffed penguin is in his hands.
“The hell?” I say, louder than anticipated. A few kids passing by look at me before continuing on. “Max?”
Max, with his arm around Tiffani, doesn’t flinch when he sees me. Tiffani’s grasp on his waist becomes tighter.
“Oh, hey Ellie, what’s up?” His voice is calm, as if he isn’t here with another girl, one who isn’t his girlfriend.
“What’s going on?” My insides are a tangle of angry impulses threatening to spill out at any second. I step closer, willing my body to stay in control. There’s obviously a misunderstanding happening. There’s no way he’d be here, with her, when I asked him to come with me.
“Oh Ellie, he didn’t tell you?” Tiffani breaks free from Max and glides over to me. “Max brought us here for our anniversary.” She smiles so sweetly it makes my stomach turn.
“Anniversary?” I’ve been reduced to single words, and my heart is pounding enough to break free from my chest. “What?” I look over at Max, who has the look of a child who got caught with his hands in the cookie jar on his face.
Max clears his throat. “Well, you see, Ellie, Tiff and I have been talking for a while now. It’s our one-month anniversary.”
Someone call the EMTs. My heart has ceased to beat.
“Ellie, you okay?” My group has found their way over to me, and are standing around me. Someone’s hands are on my shoulders. My mind goes into overload. One month anniversary. We’d only been together for three. “Ellie?”
“It’s not true,” I whisper, as every ounce of strength evaporates from my soul. “You’re with me.”
“Oh, honey, did you really think you and Max were a thing? Bless your heart.” Neon carnival lights flash behind Tiffani’s ice-blue eyes. “Max said he was totally done with you.”
Totally done with me?
“Max, what the hell is she talking about?” I tense at the thought of everything we had shared in the past few months being a lie. The late night trips to the beach where we’d snuggle under the stars, waves crashing in the distance. Sitting on this very pier, holding hands and making up stories about the people walking by. The junior prom, where he first asked me to be his girlfriend. How could all of this be fake?
Max inhales sharply and rubs his head. “Can we, uh, go somewhere to talk? I don’t want to make a public spectacle of this.”
My cheeks flush red and my hands curl into fists. I’m about to blow my top when Simon beats me to the punch. “No, man. You can’t go somewhere to talk. You can talk to her right here, right now.” His words are venom seeking Max as their victim. Simon, my protector.
Max frowns. “I knew this would become a thing, Ellie. That’s typical of you. Everything has to be a scene with you. You’re so over-the-top.”
Shards of heartbreak burst inside of me. My knees wobble and I take a calming breath to keep myself from falling over. “What do you mean?”
“You’re just so dramatic. You used to be cool and chill, but now you’re just so needy and so full of drama. Tiff and I started hanging out and one thing led to another, and here we are.” Max gives me that same sheepish grin that looped me in all those months ago. Now, it feels like a knife slicing through me. His brown eyes hold none of the care and love he’d shown for me the last few months.
“You’re going to have to do better than that,” Lindsey huffs. “That’s the most bullshit explanation I’ve ever heard.”
“Then there’s your friends, your ridiculous posse that you sick on me every time something goes wrong.” Max points to Lindsey then to Romina. “Nothing could stay between us. You tell them everything and expect me to be okay with it.” He crosses his arms.
“Well, clearly you’re into sharing your dic-” Cyrus starts. He steps forward, the bulk of his body rigid. I hold my hand up to silence him.
“Can’t share that if she’s not giving it to me.” Max smirks and Tiffani brushes her fingers through his hair, the same fluffy hair I used to play with. “Tiffani gives me plenty to work with.” Tiffani giggles and flounces her hair over her shoulder.
I’m going to puke.
“Gross,” Simon says, grabbing my arm. “Come on, Ellie, you don’t need this.”
I shrug out of Simon’s grasp. “Why bother with me, then, Max? Why ask me out in the first place? Why tell me you like me, that you want to be with me, only to have that be a lie? Why cheat on me?” My voice goes up a few octaves. I’m shaking again, wanting nothing more than to slap that stupid grin off Tiffani’s face and kick Max in his family jewels.
Max’s eyes widen and he tilts his head. “I’m sorry, Ellie. I wasn’t trying to lie to you.” Wasn’t trying to lie? Seriously?
“Well obviously, you weren’t trying to be honest either.”
“I was trying not to hurt your feelings.” Max shifts from foot to foot. Beads of sweat have started to trickle down his face. Good. I’m glad he’s feeling uncomfortable.
“Seriously? Did you think that lying to me wouldn’t hurt? That leading me on and cheating on me wouldn’t hurt?” Every alarm is going off in my head, making it hard to focus.
“I understand all of this now,” Max says. “You are a great person, Ellie.”
Good grief. He’s kidding, right?
“Oh please, put a sock in it.” Lindsey’s tone makes it clear she’s ready to claw his eyes out. Max shoots her a death glare.
“You wouldn’t do this to someone you think is a good person.” Tears are welling up behind my eyes.
Do not cry here. Do not give him the satisfaction.
“I have always been honest,” he says.
Simon scoffs. “Sure, sure. You were honest until you cheated. Come on, that’s crap and you know it.”
“I just wanted to be your friend and for you not to hate me. Plus, is it really cheating if we’ve only been together a few months?”
“See, if you ask a girl to be your girlfriend, and then you get a new girlfriend, without dumping the first girlfriend before, then yes, it’s cheating. Come on dude, you’ve got to have more sense than that.” Cyrus steps forward, shaking his head.
“Well, after I was involved with you I realized I had gone too far. Everything I say right now is the truth,” Max asks, clearly avoiding Cyrus’s remarks. Max likely doesn’t want to get into anything with him, star of the football team, at least not in public. Cyrus easily has a good three inches on Max, and Cyrus’s muscles are the size of Max’s head. “I just couldn’t end things because you are such a nice person, one of the nicest people I have ever met.”
“You’re so full of shit,” Lindsey says. “Ellie, please tell me you don’t buy what this loser is trying to sell you.”
I shake my head. “Max, stop.”
“Really, Ellie, I never meant to hurt you. You’re such a kind-hearted person, and I want you to know that.”
Something inside of me snaps.
“Stop giving me compliments, Max. I don’t fucking need them.” I shout. A few adults scowl in my direction.
Max sighs. “You’re hopeless, Ellie, pure hopeless. I tried with you, I really did. It didn’t work, and I’m sorry. If you can’t accept that and move on, that’s your problem, not mine.” He laces his hands with Tiffani’s. “Let’s get out of here.”
The two of them walk away, and Tiffani wiggles her fingers in a wave at us.
“Prick,” Lindsey yells as they leave.
“Lindsey! There are children around!” Romina scolds before turning to me. “Ellie, are you okay?” Worry flashes behind her eyes. She’s always been the mother of our group, and her dark-rimmed glasses, short stature, and endless curls only add to the feeling.
I watch as Max and Tiffani leave the pier. At that moment, cold, fat raindrops start plopping down, splattering my face and hair. The tears that threatened to escape earlier finally break free and start rolling down my face.
“Come on, let’s go,” Simon soothes, wrapping his arm around me and leading me away from the pier. Lindsey and the others follow.
It’s pouring by the time we get to the car. I slide in the backseat, in between Romina and Simon, and sob.
“He’s a fool,” Simon says, rubbing my back.
“A class-A asshole.” Romina hands me some tissues.
“You’re much better off,” Lindsey says. “He isn’t worth the ground you walk on. He isn’t even worth being called shit right now.” She gives me a soft smile. “Want to go home and watch slasher movies where the pretty bitches get slaughtered?”
I let out a small laugh. “That sounds great.”
“I can always find him and run him over,” Cyrus suggests, starting the car. “I don’t mind, really.”
“Best not add a felony to the events of today,” I say, wiping my eyes. “But thanks.”
We leave the parking lot as a clap of thunder rolls out. We drive by Max’s SUV, and my heart clinches in my chest.
“Cy, stop the car,” I say, unbuckling my seatbelt.
Cyrus looks at me like I’ve lost my mind as he puts the car into park. I climb over Romina and scramble out of the car.
“Ellie, what are you doing?” She calls after me. “It’s pouring!”
Ignoring her, I reach Max’s window and rap hard. Inside, I see him jump and tear himself away from Tiffani. I guess they couldn’t wait to celebrate their victory of tearing me apart.
Max rolls down the window. “Ellie? What do you want?”
“You’re an ass, Max.” I lean forward, water dripping down my face. I can feel mascara and eyeliner running down my face. Great. Now I’ve turned into a walking cliche.
Max chuckles. “Ouch, Ellie. You really told me.” Next to him, Tiffani smirks. “Come on now, you’re only embarrassing yourself. Give it up.”
My hand whips up from my side and lashes across Max’s cheek, leaving a smudge of water in its tracks. Shock rushes over Max’s face and Tiffani lets out a yelp.
“Fuck you, Max.” I look over at Tiffani. “And fuck you too, Tiffani.”
I turn on my heel and get back into the car. Romina slides over and hands me the towel Cyrus keeps in his car. I wipe my face and try to dry myself as quickly as I can.
“You good?” Cyrus asks. I look around and everyone has the same wide eyes and pursed lips on their faces.
I take a deep breath. “I’m good. Let’s go home.”