Escape in You(9)

By: Rachel Schurig


“They’re not all miserable. Spring is nice.”

“Whatever. Spring lasts about two minutes. It goes from cold as hell to hot as balls around here.”

I have to laugh at that. “I was just thinking that tonight. That spring went way too fast.” I pause. “I wasn’t ready for summer.”

“Me either,” he says, his voice soft. I look over at him. He’s staring at the ground. He looks about a million miles away. I wonder what it is about summer that he doesn't like, but I don't press. I know what it feels like to dread something as inevitable as the change of season.

“Zoe?” Ellie mumbles from the carpet. “Are you still up there?”

“I’m here, Ells,” I answer and look down at her. Never opening her eyes, she smiles. In a minute she’s snoring again.

“Can I have a sip of that?” Taylor points at the bottle in my hand. I’d almost forgotten it was there. I take a swig before passing it to him, wiping my mouth on the back of my arm as the warmth fills my belly.

“Impressive,” Taylor says, nodding at me as he takes the bottle and follows suit. “You didn’t even grimace.”

I shrug. “I like vodka.”

“Okay, so I know you like vodka and picking fights with girls at parties. What else makes you tick?”

“I didn’t pick that fight!” I say, my voice a little too loud. “That bitch got mouthy with Ellie.”

“And that’s a mistake, huh?”

“You have no idea.”

“You’re not like most of the girls I know,” he says and nods down at Ellie to include her in his assessment.

“What does that mean?”

“Well, most girls don’t chug vodka straight from the bottle. And most girls don’t actually get in fights at kegs. When a girl says she’s going to kick someone’s ass, I can pretty much always assume she’s full of shit.”

“Ellie and I don’t mess around with stuff like that. We’ve had to stand up for ourselves way too often for it to be a joke. When Ellie threatens someone, she means it.”

“You too?”

I nod. “Though I don’t feel the need to threaten quite as often as she does.” I meet his eyes. “But when I say something, I mean it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” His voice is a soft rasp that makes the hair on the backs of my arms stand up. I stare at his lips, wishing I could kiss him. Why had I been so stupid and told him I prefer conversation to cheesy lines? I could be making out with this hottie right now if I had kept my mouth shut and laughed at his little jokes like any other girl.

“How long have you guys known each other?” he asks.

It takes me a second to come back to the conversation. “Ellie? We’ve been tight for a few years now. I guess we started hanging out when we were seventeen.” I manage to keep my voice casual, as if that year, and the circumstances surrounding our becoming friends, hadn’t been any big deal. “What about you? You said you grew up with Preston? Are you guys tight?”

He lifts one shoulder. “Not particularly. I mean, I guess we were. But we don’t have a lot in common anymore.”

That’s a little cryptic. Does that mean he doesn't live in one of these huge mansions on this side of town? Or is it simply that he stayed home and got a job while Preston went off to school?

“He’s not a bad guy, though,” Taylor says. “His parents travel a lot, so he throws a ton of parties in the summer.”

“Maybe I’ll see you at another one of them.”

He’s quiet for a moment as he holds my gaze. “I hope I see you regardless.”

His tone makes my stomach flip and all in a rush I’m frightened. Am I getting in too far here? Flirting at a party is one thing, making plans to see each other after tonight is another. To my great relief, Ellie chooses that moment to wake up fully.

She moans as she sits up. “Ugh, I have a headache. Zoe, you weren’t supposed to let me mix beer and pot. You know this.”

“I warned you,” I say. “You told me to fuck off.”

She laughs weakly, rubbing her head. “That does sound like something I’d say.” She pulls her phone from her pocket and starts to type. “Let’s find Hunter. I’m in need of sustenance. I want pancakes.”