The stars twinkled in the sky while the moon shined a spotlight for us all. The pier was lit up with bright colors to make the rides more prominent. Nothing else could top going to the Santa Monica Pier at night.
“Why don’t we go on the Ferris Wheel one more time?” Ezra asked everyone.
Kayleigh and I agreed because I just needed one last view of the ocean during the darkest hours of the day.
Waiting in line, the coaster made a lot of ruckus as it zipped by. We had been on that earlier and it was fun but it was still not the Ferris Wheel.
Our turn to get on came and we entered the seating. Kayleigh pushed her bag into my hands. “I have to pee. It can’t wait. I’ll see you when you get off.” She rushed off, leaving Ezra and I alone. Was this done on purpose or what?
The wheel started up and we spun to the top. I looked over the edge of our bowl-shaped section. I wasn’t sure what to call it at this time. It wasn’t a boat.
“Anything I should know about Mel?” Ezra’s voice carried to me.
I looked at him and shrugged. “What is there to tell? What about you? I know nothing about you. You’ve already been to my house countless times. You’ve met my mom and sister. I want to know what kind of family members you have.”
He smiled. “I have a ma and a brother. Why?”
“See, this is good. What else should I know about you? I want to hear more about dear Ezra.” I leaned forward.
“My brother is younger than me. Ma is older.” He laughed.
“Huh, I always pictured your mom to be younger.” I wiggled my eyebrows. “And what about your dad?”
“He left when I was young, right after Jose was born. We don’t like to talk about him.” He looked out at the view.
I took a deep breath. I wanted to know more. “What about your mom? What does she do for a living?”
His eyes met mine before he decided to answer my question. “Well, she works at a company. She’s the secretary. She used to be a stripper.”
I didn’t say anything else. What could I say? This had been what he meant when his mom knew where he spent his time. She had stripped for a living so Ezra’s job at Playboy didn’t matter. Ezra was eighteen anyway. He got to choose where he worked.
“You don’t know anything about my family life so don’t act all high and mighty,” he said. He seemed irritated in the way his expression fell on his face.
“I didn’t even say anything.” I put my hands up.
“Yeah, and I can see the judgment in your eyes.” He pointed to me.
I cocked my eyebrows and crossed my arms. “Excuse me? Maybe I don’t agree with stripping for money but I’m not going to stop talking to you or avoid your mother. It’s you who chose to keep it to yourself. You are the one who’s never shown me your home. Is there a reason for that? Are you ashamed? You work for a company that posts half-naked and naked women in magazines. I still talk to you, don’t I?”
He sat back. “I’m not ashamed. I just like to keep family private.”
“That’s going to be hard to do because family is a public thing. We all have family, somehow.” I lifted my right leg and crossed it over my left leg. I kept my arms folded against my chest.
He rolled his eyes.
I cleared my throat. “Should I push you off this ride? I will.”
He shook his head. “My family isn’t exactly perfect. My pa is a deadbeat and my ma used to show men her stuff just to pay for the food in our mouths. I can’t be like you.”
I choked on my own words. “Whoa, whoa. Where did you get this idea that my family was perfect? Nobody’s family is. My brother is off in college and my dad isn’t even around right now. He’s been on a business trip for a while. A perfect family is one where everyone is together and we can all be happy and achieve our dreams while being nearby. But that hasn’t worked out for us.”
“I...” He shifted in his seat. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“I don’t talk about him because it’s a tough subject. I miss him a lot. We weren’t super close but I miss having him around. It hasn’t felt normal at home since he left. I’m happy he’s doing what he loves but it’s still difficult for the rest of us. Breanna is trying to become a fashion designer. Everyone knows what they want in life... But that means we all have to split up someday. We’ve surpassed the days when we ate dinner as a family. Now those family dinners are reserved for the holidays.” I lowered my head.
He reached over and grabbed my hand. “You’re still a family. You just have different dreams to achieve now. You grew up. That’s how life works.”
“I know.” I looked at him. “I understand this is how it works.”
He sat back. “I’m glad my pa left us. He was horrible. He always treated my ma like crap. They would constantly fight. He was always looking for drugs. He was immature. If he had stayed in our lives, who knows how messed up things could have been. Is it better to not have a father or have a bad influence as one?”
“What difference would it make? You still like to look at naked women. You fight with me.” I shrugged.
He chuckled. “We do not fight. We have squabbles. I also haven’t look at those magazines in a while. I used to when the guys would ask me to bring them some but... It’s not the same. Those are pictures in the end. They’re 2D versions.” He leaned back some more. “It’s not the same effect as a real naked woman. Real naked women can provide real sex.”
“You’re disgusting.” I narrowed my eyes at him.
He laughed. “Hey, I admit I have used women in the past. I used them for sex like my ma used men for money. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like that.”
I sighed out of boredom. His excuses were worth a penny.
“I’m serious, Mel. This is going to sound cheesy but I have no way to say it without it sounding this way.” He leaned forward. “I met you and offered you a job. You turned me down. You slapped me. Over this past month, I’ve spent a lot of time around you. I’ve noticed how you focus on school and you’re smart. You are trying to do something with your life, something you love. Women are more than just boobs. I’ve really seen this by being around you.”
I unfolded my arms, trying to find the words to say. He was right. It was super cheesy. However, I wasn’t sure how else he could say it without it sounding so. Sometimes men had to witness women using their brains to see that we had more to offer than boobs. Ezra was just that stupid and he needed me to help him see it.
“Mel?” he asked, waiting for my answer.
Pushing a strand of hair behind my ear, I said, “Alright. I believe you. I admit that women objectify men just as well.” Hell, every time the man was shirtless, I wanted to kiss him and hold on tight.
A smirk rose on his face. “I am very aware that you want me and my body, Amor.”
I kicked his leg a little. “Don’t push it.”
The wheel came to a stop at the bottom and we got off, meeting Kayleigh. I handed her her bag and glanced back at Ezra. He was patting his butt as if the seat was dirty. I mean, it was but it was not that serious. I never would have taken the man for a germaphobe.
“Let’s go, Ezra. We wouldn’t want our poor boy getting lost and hurt in the dark.” I smiled at him. He glared at me in return and it was all worth it.
We walked back to the parking lot. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow for our tutoring lesson?” Ezra had turned to look at me. His car door was open while he rested one arm on the top of his door and the other on his hood.
I gave him a thumbs up to confirm before getting into Kayleigh’s car. I was not in the mood for talking for the rest of the night. It wasn’t very often when I got too tired to talk but I had now hit that moment.
Kayleigh drove me home for the night and went to her own house. I would have asked her to stay but I wasn’t ready to speak yet. I couldn’t tell if it was my vocal cords, tongue, or lips that gave up.
I went to my room and laid down on my bed, thinking about what Ezra had said. His family was quite interesting. I had expected him to have more siblings or at least a dad but I was wrong. Too many people in this world were missing a parent or both. It was never a lovely feeling but kids had to accept it. There was nothing more they could do.
I watched the stars and the way they sparkled like Edward Cullen. The moon was bright for Jacob to see. They were somewhere in this world, searching for their Bella Swan. It was useless because that girl had less character development than the wall in my bedroom, and the wall in my room was bare.
If I had to put Kayleigh somewhere, I’d peg her as Bella’s weird friend who was played by Anna Kendrick in the movies. I had forgotten all their names. Was her name Jessica? Who was I? I wasn’t even sure. I was the logical type.
Kayleigh and I would always make fun of Twilight but it was still good entertainment somehow. Whether you watched it for fantasy, romance, or comedy, you could get something out of it.
It was crazy to believe it was so old at this time. It had been made so long ago. And yet, Kayleigh still made me watch it from time to time.
I had to wonder if Ezra had ever seen it. Well, if we were going to be friends, he was going to watch it with us no matter what. It was just a fact of life.
I snuggled underneath my blanket, forgetting I still had regular clothes and my swimsuit on. I was far too lazy to get up now but I was too uncomfortable to sleep in this. It was a battle I could not win.
The crickets outside went off as usual, just like Ana from biology.
Ezra crossed my mind and I saw his winning smile once again. He could win an award with that upward curve on his lips.
His brown eyes were like melted chocolate, sweet and filled with so much joy to go around. His hair was perfect for my fingers to run through. How could such an attractive man be so interested in me? It never made any sense but who was I to reject it? Well, I had tried to just last week.
That was beside the point. The original point was that Ezra was a good-looking man and I was not one to deny that. It amazed me that he talked to me and had respected my wishes after I told them what he did wrong. I was right. I loved being right. Now, if I could just get him to fall in love with me, I would win this bet and be happy for all of eternity.