Beneath the light whistle of the wind, crickets chirping, I say, “You’re a good friend.”
She ignores the comment, sitting on the lid of an old paint can. “It’s your turn.”
I sit down next to her. “I’m ready.”
She narrows her eyes. “Okay, for all the marbles this one’s a two-parter. One truth and one dare.” She stares at the street, cheeks burning.
When she faces me again mine are too.
“Truth,” she breathes. “Do you want to kiss me?”
I don’t look away or even blink. “Yes.”
She doesn’t look away either. “Dare.” She swallows, leans in. “Do it.”
My hands move first, trusting that the only way to make them stop shaking is to press them to her skin. My thumbs graze her cheeks, fingers in her hair. It’s soft and she’s warm and for a long time I just look at her, closing the space centimeters at a time while I take in the lashes that are stuck together by mascara, the birthmark buried under her left eyebrow, the small dimple on her chin. I stare, sorting every piece into things that feel good and things that hurt like hell, into things I never want to forget and things I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I never have to.
But before I have a chance to savor those first few breaths slipping between her lips, they’re pressed against mine, falling and climbing their way back up. I taste her lipstick, her tongue, and it makes me dizzy. Her hands are on my knees, pinning me there, and then they’re on my waist, on my shoulders, both of us gripping each other like we’re clinging to the edge of a cliff. Afraid of falling off. Or hoping that if we do, we’ll fall together.
Suddenly, Pen stops moving.
She stops breathing, my wild heartbeat the only sound.
I open my eyes and she’s not staring back. She’s staring at the street. At the car parked in front of Angel’s house, cigarette smoke slithering up from the open window, flesh and ink viper flexed against Jago’s forearm as he hangs it over the side of the door.
I’m on my feet and so is Pen. She shudders, angry, and unafraid. But I’m terrified. And not just of Jago seeing me here but of Jago seeing her. I don’t know how long he’s been watching us but I can tell by the way his mouth twitches that he knows who she is. To Ignacio Prado. To me.
The engine purrs as the car pulls forward. Just in time for Angel to step outside. For Jago to say hello to him too.
“Get inside, Pen.”
She straightens, shoulders heaving.
“No.” Her stare sharpens. She charges down the steps. “He’s not gonna fucking do this.”
Angel wrenches her back. “Are you out of your mind?”
My heart races.
“Stay away from us!” Pen shouts, trying to tear herself from Angel’s grasp. “Stay away from the restaurant. Fucking stay away!”
She seethes but the faster her breaths, the more transparent she becomes. Beneath the anger, beneath the shock, her eyes glisten with something like fear. And it’s all my fault.
Jago hangs his head back, a whistle cutting between his smile. He leans on the gas, letting the engine growl, and then he speeds off.
Pen glares until he rounds the corner and then she finally lets Chloe pull her inside. I stay put, afraid of facing Angel. I know Jago’s been following me and because I wasn’t being careful I led him right to Angel Prado’s house. To Pen. Her rage wasn’t directed at me but what she doesn’t know is that it should have been.
“I’m sorry, Angel. I didn’t mean for—”
“It’s not you,” Angel stops me. “It’s…” he shakes his head, “it’s not you.”
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