"Shit, Emma. That’s—that’s screwed up. He’s just leaving?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe? He left last night, said he’s going to a hotel and supposedly leaving today. I’m sure he’s going to pack his things while everyone’s out. He’ll probably stay at the house while my mom and I are still here. Do you think he’ll move out, or will he kick us out?”
Jonas shakes his head. “If their getting a divorce then your mom will likely keep the house because she’d be taking care of you—but you are technically an adult. Maybe they’ll sell it and split the profit then.”
“I’m so sorry this is happening to you, Emma. You’re the last person this needs to happen to. Don’t let this discourage you—just because your parents didn’t work out doesn’t mean—”
“I know, I know, I just, I don’t know. Everything is so messy right now.”
“I wish you and Lauren were on good terms. Her parents got divorced, maybe she could help?”
I sigh, grabbing a pillow from beside me on the couch and placing it on my lap. “I don’t want help right now. I just want an escape. I want—I want something to distract me. Do you have alcohol here? Anything with something that can help me in it?”
“Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“Jonas, I haven’t had anything to drink since last summer. Give me something.”
I follow him into the kitchen. “There’s beer and stuff in the fridge, and,” he motions to an array of bottles tucked in the corner of the counter, “all of this.”
I open the fridge, eyeing over cans, reaching in and grabbing the half empty bottle of vodka. I unscrew the top and take a sniff, remembering it all too well. Turning to the cabinet, I then grab a large glass all while Jonas is watching. “Do you want water? Lime? Something to add, mix?” I tilt the bottle, pouring it into the glass. Jonas takes the bottle from me when he notices me pouring a lot. I let him take it, and I have a sip without overthinking. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters, putting the vodka away. “Are you trying to vomit? Pass out? I remember you drunk and it’s not a good look.”
After an hour of spilling my feelings and working on my large glass, Jonas joins in, talking on and on about Presley. “We hooked up a few nights ago. Conversation between us hasn’t really been lively.” He takes a drink from his beer. “I think it might have ruined things.”
“Well, Brandon and I haven’t done anything.”
“Really. It’s been how long?”
“Do you think it might ruin things? I don’t want to ruin things.”
Jonas shrugs. “I don’t know. I assumed you already got busy.”
“You’re his friend—is this unlike him?”
He groans, leaning back. “Who cares—lets go swimming. I wanna swim. You have a suit here, don’t you? Come on!” He slips off the counter stool, leaving his empty cans behind. I follow, feeling sick, no longer wanting to drink. Jonas grabs my swimsuit from the dining chair. No one ever was there so the boys have turned it into a place for random nothings. I hang my suit on the back when it’s dry. “Here,” he throws it at me, “I cleaned it for you. You’re welcome.”
“I’m changing in the bathroom,” I murmur, waddling off down the hall while he changes himself. I flick on the light and shut the door, mindlessly taking off my clothes and letting them drop to the floor. Dizzy, I grab the wall. Struggling to put on my swimsuit bottoms, I get unnecessarily frustrated as I continuously step in the center and not through the hole. As I stumble around I can hear Jonas singing to me from another room. It gets louder and suddenly he’s knocking on the door with an open hand.
“Hurry up! I’ll be outside.”
“Okay,” I call back, finishing and gathering my clothes. Before I leave the bathroom I look in the mirror, touching and poking around at my face as if it’s not my own. Sucking in cheeks, raising eyebrows, biting my lips to make them red. I turn on the sink and wet my finger, dampening my eyebrows to make them darker. Losing my train of thought and the purpose of this, I hear Jonas walking around. I shut off the light and wander out into the hall, thinking that he’s talking to me.
"What?” I say a little louder than necessary. “What should I do with my clothes? I don’t want my underwear out in the open. What if people come here and see my bra? Will they judge me? Will they think that we’re hooking up?” Walking into the main room, I’m confused when I don’t see him. “Jonas?” I peer outside and see a figure in the pool.
Spinning around, I stumble back at the sight of Brandon and some woman and some boy. My head feels as if it’s caving in, and my entire body heats up as if the spotlight is a little too bright. With my clothes clenched in one hand and my stomach in the other, the need to vomit comes quick.
“Emma, what are you doing here?” Brandon says, nearing me as the other two watch. “Are you—” He quiets down, “Have you been drinking?”
“No, no, you don’t understand. I came here to see you, but Jonas said you were gone.”
Confused, Brandon glances back. “This is my brother and my mother, they’re in town for the day. I wanted to show them the house.”
“Who’s this?” His mother—who makes my insides explode—asks, coming over to meet me. “A friend.”
“Yes,” I cut in very quickly, although I doubt Brandon would want to label me as something more when I’m drunk and in nothing but a bikini. “We’re friends. I’m friends with Jonas actually. We, uh, met through him. He’s actually outside if you wanna—”
“Oh, yes, I want to see him. Come on,” she says to the young teen.
I hurry out the glass door, warning a swimming Jonas with my dramatic face as I lead the group outside. He first ignores me but straightens up at the sight of Brandon’s family.
“Jonas!” His mother calls, nearing the pool. “How are you? How have you been?”
As Jonas is questioned, Brandon pulls me aside. “You came to see me but somehow you ended up drunk?”
Embarrassed, I hold my clothes against my bare stomach. “I know I look really bad right now, but something worse happened last night and I don’t know how to handle it. I know I shouldn’t have drunk anything—I just don’t want to think about it. I came here to see you because, I don’t know, I wanted to talk. But Jonas said I can talk to him and we ended up drinking and now we were going to go swimming. Oh God, you all heard what I said in the hall, didn’t you? Do I look like some sleazy drunk now?”
“Look, stay here, okay? We’re going back out but I’ll be back in a few hours.”
Not wanting to go home anyway, I nod.
“Well, we’re going out for lunch,” Brandon’s mother says, turning to us. “You two are welcome to join if you like.”
Too anxious to answer, Jonas thankfully takes over. “Oh, no, you go have family time. Emma and I are going to soak up some sun, right, Emma?”
I nod again, throwing in an uncomfortable smile to seem like less of a troublemaker. His mother makes sure we don’t want to come, but Jonas assures her. My eyes stay glued to Brandon as they walk back into the house, giving Jonas and I space to breathe. “They heard me say bad things,” I mutter once the back door shuts. “Oh my god, Jonas, his mom probably thinks I’m some teenage sleaze.”
“Is she wrong?” He tries me, putting on a face and splashing water at me. I glare and drop my clothes to the floor, charging at him and yelling as I jump in the pool.
We float around and chat for a while, sobering up and bronzing. I can’t help but wait impatiently for Brandon to get back so we can be alone, and the more I focus on it, the longer the hours take to go by. Once we’re finished with the pool, Jonas offers me a shower and clothes to change into. After handing me towels and tossing my clothes in the hamper, he leaves me with the upstairs bathroom to myself. I don’t feel out of place—I’ve stayed and showered here before, sometimes for days, especially when Kaden and I would be fighting. Not wanting to be alone, I would sleepover here instead of heading home. My mother likes Jonas, she trusts him. So when I text her now and tell her that I’m over here, she has no problem with it.
My mother must know that I heard part of the fight—the screaming was loud enough to let the neighbors know some too. She must understand that I need some time with friends. I’m glad she gets that.
Unlike last summer, in the shower is not only Jonas’ things, such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and so on, but what I’m assuming is Brandon’s as well. I can’t help but grab his bottle of wash and take a little sniff. As I expected, it smells like him. It smells nice, clean, boyish—making me take another waft before putting it back. Not wanting to scare him when he gets back—by the fact that I smell like him—I use Jonas’ stuff to clean my hair and get the stench of chlorine off of me. In the end, I smell like a guy, but a different guy, which could be a problem in itself.
After drying off, I shrug on Jonas’ clothes, a dark grey crew neck sweatshirt and a pair of matching sweatpants. I tighten the pants and tie the string, feeling a bit ridiculous.
Back downstairs Jonas tells me, “It’s the only thing I had that would somewhat fit you.”
“Do I look stupid? I feel like a soccer coach.” Grabbing the shirt, I pull it out to show how much room there is.
“You know, Emma, it is a men’s shirt. If you look like a man, it’s doing its job.”
Falling on the couch, I make a face at him. “How long has it been? Brandon said a few hours.”
“I would guess a few hours,” Jonas says. “So are you going to tell him everything you told me?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I might have over thought everything by now.”
“No no no, open up to him, share your problems with him.”
“Are you still trying to play matchmaker?”
“If you two don’t end up together, there is no hope for the rest of us. Fate did this to you—ruined all of your other relationships—because you were meant to be with Brandon. He was meant to show you what real love is.”
“Um,” I look over at him, “you’re insane.”
“Insane? No. A dreamer? Definitely. I just want to see you with someone who—”
The doorbell ringing steals my attention. Without a second thought, I hurry to it. “Emma, I don’t think—” Jonas says behind me, but I’m already opening the door. Instead of seeing the guy I’ve been waiting for, Kaden is the one in his place.
“What are you—”
“Your mom said that you’d be here,” he says.
“You went to my Aunts house? You talked to my mom?”
Kaden bobs his head, hands in pockets, nervous-looking. “Yeah, that was fun. She really didn’t like me.”
“We talked. I told her about my mother dying and how I’ve changed because of it. I told her how we’re all clean, wholesome kids now. She was still reluctant, but she told me you were here so that seems like a step in the right direction.”
Annoyed, I take a step back. “What are you trying to do? Last time I saw you, you came to the shop and told me to never come over again. I thought we were on the same page with our relationship.”
“What should I tell you? That I made another mistake? I was upset. You told me that you’re with Brandon now, and it pissed me off a little.”
“So this is just another apology?” Before he can say anything else that I’m tired of hearing, I say, “Just stop, Kaden. It’s very clear that we can’t even be friends. Why can’t you just let this go?”
“Because I still love you.”
“No, no, you love that girl from last summer. I’m not that girl anymore. I’ve changed. You’ve changed. We’re different people now, people that just don’t work well together.”
Becoming visibly distressed, Kaden runs his fingers through his hair and drops his hand to his side. “You think I’m going to try and hurt you again, don’t you? Don’t you?”
“Are you on something?”
“Damn it, Emma, you were the best thing I’ve ever had. After last summer, I thought I would never see you again. I thought I’d lost you forever!”
"Kaden,” I warn, “what did you take?”
“Will you just listen to me for one second?” He nears the door, placing his hand on it as if he’s going to push it further open. “We can talk this out if you’ll just give me—”
I peer past Kaden and see Brandon coming up the path. Kaden steps aside and Brandon sees me as well. “You need to go,” I tell Kaden.
“Why, because he’s here now? You’re going to get rid of me so you can fuck your boyfriend?”
Cutting in at the perfect time, Brandon asks, “What’s going on here?”
“I was just leaving.”
Kaden’s face turns sour and he walks away, leaving the house and heading onto the street. My eyes shift from him to Brandon, letting him in his own place and shutting the door behind us. “What was that about?”
“Nothing,” I murmur, “he’s just crazy.”
Stopping Brandon from asking more, Jonas gets up from the couch. “That was really weird, Emma.”
“I know, so can we just forget it? I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s fine,” Brandon says, calm, “we don’t have to talk about it. But did you still want to tell me what happened—why you were here earlier?”
Biting my lip, hating the fact that I’m about to show more vulnerability, I nod.