Until You

By: Penelope Douglas


Great.

Another fucking blonde.

What the hell was I thinking?

Blondes weren’t my thing. They always looked like good girls. Not exotic or even remotely interesting. Too pure.

They looked like the girl-next-door type.

And who really wanted that?

But the last few days—when the nightmares had started again—all I’d wanted were blondes. It was like I had some sick pull to self-destruct over the one blonde I loved to hate.

But…I had to admit, the girl was hot. Her skin looked smooth, and she had nice tits. I think she’d said something about being home for the summer from Purdue. I don’t think I told her about me being sixteen and still in high school. Maybe I’d spring that on her when she woke up. Just for kicks.

I leaned my head back, in too much pain to even smile at the image of her freak out.

“Jared?” My mother knocked, and I jerked my head up, cringing.

My head throbbed like someone had stuck a fork in it all night, and I did not want to deal with her right now. But I hopped off the bed anyway and headed for the door before the girl next to me stirred. Opening it just a little, I eyed my mother with as much patience as I could muster.

She was wearing pink sweatpants and a long-sleeved fitted T-shirt—nice for a Sunday, actually—but from the neck up, it was a mess as usual. She had her hair stuffed into a bun, and her makeup from the day before was smudged under her eyes.

Her hangover probably rivaled mine. The only way she was up and moving around was because her body was a hell of a lot more used to it.

When she cleaned up, though, you could see how young she really was. When most of my friends first got a look at her they thought she was my sister.

“What do you want?” I asked.

I thought she was waiting for me to let her in, but that wasn’t going to happen.

“Tate’s leaving.” Her voice was soft.

My heart started thumping in my chest.

Was that today?

And suddenly it was like an invisible hand prying open my stomach, and I flinched at the pain. I didn’t know if it was the hangover or the reminder of her leaving, but I clenched my teeth to force down the bile.

“So?” I mumbled, overloading on attitude.

She rolled her eyes at me. “So I thought you might get off your ass and say goodbye. She’ll be gone for a whole year, Jared. You were friends once.”

Yeah, up until two years ago…The summer before freshman year, I’d gone to visit my father and came home to realize that I was on my own. My mother was weak, my father was a monster, and Tate wasn’t a friend, after all.

I just shook my head before shutting the door in my mom’s face.

Yeah, like I was going to go outside and give Tate a hug goodbye. I didn’t care, and I was happy to be rid of her.

But there was a lump in my throat, and I couldn’t swallow.

I slumped back against the door, feeling the weight of a thousand bricks fall on my shoulders. I’d forgotten that she was leaving today. I’d been pretty much drunk non-stop since the Beckman party two days ago.

Shit.

I could hear car doors slamming outside, and I told myself to stay where I was. I didn’t need to see her.

Let her go study abroad in France. Her leaving was the best damn thing that could happen.

“Jared!” I tensed up when my mother called from downstairs. “The dog got out. You better go get him.”

Great.

Wanna bet she let the damn dog out to begin with? And wanna bet she let him out the front door? I pinched my eyebrows so close together that it actually hurt.

Throwing on last night’s jeans, I jerked open the bedroom door, not caring if Purdue girl woke up, and stomped down the stairs.

My mother was waiting by the open front door, holding up the leash for me and smiling like she was so clever. Snatching it out of her hand, I walked outside and over to Tate’s yard.

Madman used to be her dog, too, and he wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.

“Did you come to say goodbye to me?” Tate knelt on her front lawn near her dad’s Bronco, and I stopped dead in my tracks at the sound of her delighted and uncontrollable giggle. She was smiling like it was Christmas morning, and her eyes were squeezed shut as Madman nuzzled her neck.

Her ivory skin glowed in the morning sun, and her full, pink lips were open, showing a beautiful row of white teeth.

The dog was clearly happy, too, wagging his tail with giddiness, and I felt like I was intruding.

They were a pair, loving on each other, and my stomach filled with butterflies.

Dammit. I ground my teeth together.

How did she do that? How did she always manage to make me feel happy to see her happy?

I blinked long and hard.

Tate continued yapping to the dog. “Oh, well, I love you, too!” She sounded like she was speaking to a child, all sweet and shit, as Madman kept nudging and licking her face.

He shouldn’t love her this much. What had she done for him in the past two years?

“Madman, come,” I barked, not really angry with the dog.

Tate’s eyes shifted up to me, and she stood up. “You’re being a jerk to the dog now, too?” She scowled, and it was then that I noticed what she was wearing.

The Nine Inch Nails T-shirt I’d given her when we were fourteen, and my chest swelled for some stupid unknown reason.

I’d forgotten she had it.

Okay…not really. I guess I didn’t realize that she still had it.