"That's because she didn't know about the other times."
I glared up at my roof. I couldn't get back to sleep no matter how hard I tried. My room was right across from hers. I had heard her thrashing first. It wasn't until she started screaming that I realized how bad her nightmare must've been.
At 8, my alarm went off and I changed into a pair of jeans and a sweater. Deidre was coming out of her room at the same time as I was. She smiled at me and I returned it, yawning a little. When we got in the car, though, she turned to me.
"Do you have any girlfriends?" she asked and I stopped in the act of putting my keys in the ignition.
I arched a brow. "You mean other than you? No. Why would I?"
She pursed her lips. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd know if I was dating someone else." I narrowed my eyes. "Why are you asking?"
She shook her head. "Stupid rumors at work," she said finally.
I sighed. "Let me guess," I began as the car started, "there's a girl named Carla that works with you."
"How'd you know?"
"We dated a few years ago," I said. "I broke up with her because... well, because I was stupid."
"What happened?" she asked.
"I don't know if I want to tell you," I said honestly.
"I won't think any less of you. Besides, it's not like I can leave you," she joked and I chuckled.
"Yeah, I guess." I cleared my throat. "We had sex and then I found out she was cheating on me. So, I decided to get back at her by sleeping with her... with her sister." I sighed, my face going red with shame. "I used to be...."
"A player?" she suggested and I cringed.
"Back in my early 20's," I said. "It's true that I had several girlfriends but, after Carla, I never did it again." She nodded thoughtfully. "What about you? Any ex-boyfriends?"
"Nah. We became homeless when I was 13 - that's when the alimony stopped coming in. Mom wanted to sue but we couldn't afford a lawyer. We had a friend offer to do it pro bono but it turned out he was a scam artist. Luckily, he was caught before we did any business with him."
"Wow," I mumbled.
She shrugged. "There were a few guys I thought were cute in the kitchen but they turned out to be chasers."
"Chasers?" I repeated, pulling into the parking lot.
"That's what my mom called them," she explained. "They would chase a homeless girl, hoping we were desperate enough to sleep with them. They'd give her some cast but then leave." I looked at her in horror but she shrugged again. "It's part of the life, Artemis. I had one guy who I thought was my 'prince charming'. I was 15 but he was a chaser, too." She shook her head, unbuckling her seatbelt. "That's when I learned that fairy tales aren't real. There is no happily ever after."
I frowned. "Says who?"
"Life," she said with a sad smile. "I get off at six today if you could get me then."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, duh." She laughed and got out. "Have a good day."
"You, too," she said and hurried inside out of the cold.
I sat in my car for a while, unable to believe how casual she was about the horrors she told me about. It was horrible. I shook my head and drove to the office. The last few days my mom was letting me come in to shadow her.
Kilgore Productions was a 10-story building. It had about 4,000 employees so far. My mom was talking about expansion but I had a feeling she wouldn't actually do it herself. She would probably leave that to me. The top story was where the executive offices and conference rooms were.
The front lobby was all grey marble and black stone walls. Very posh; a little too posh for my taste. That was how my father was, though. He liked the look and so that's what he went for. I waved to a few employees who were milling around and took the elevator to the 10th floor, still thinking about all that Deidre had said.
My mom was in her office on the phone when I got there. I filled up a Dixie cup with water and waited in a chair across from her desk. I could tell she was on a hard call and decided to mess with her. I put my feet on the desk, earning a harsh glare and a pen thrown at me. I smirked.
"No, Mr. Hemp, we can't do that. ... You know why. ... That's just not what we do. If we branch out to that, you'll be at the top of the list. ... Oh no, my computer just crashed. I have to go."
"Mr. Hemp?" I repeated with a laugh.
"It's an unfortunate last name for a pharmacist," she agreed. "What's wrong? You came in looking bothered."
"Just some stuff Deidre told me. So, what are we going to do today?"
"Numbers," she said and I groaned.
"We did numbers yesterday."
She looked at me sternly. "Those were just half of them."
My jaw dropped. "Really?" She nodded and I sat up straight. "Well, let's get started, then."
"Are you guys going to cook dinner again?" my mom asked. It was 5:30 and I was running late to pick Deidre up. "Janine has the night off."
"Probably not," I said, walking quickly to my car. "Could you guys cook? I want to show her something on the way home."
"Sure," my mom said. "What are you going to show her?"
I waved. "See you in about an hour and a half."
I didn't get to the coffee shop until 6:15. She was waiting inside and hurried out, looking pissed off and I worried it was because I was late.
"I'm so sorry I'm late."
"It's okay. Can we please get out of here?" she added. "Like, right now?"
I pulled out. "What's wrong?"
"Carla," she snarled. "I can't stand her."
She shook her head. "Let's talk about it later."
"Okay," I said and drove down a back road.
"Where are we going?" she asked when she noticed we weren't headed back to the house.
"You'll see," I said with a smile.
It only took another 15 minutes to get to the fountain. When we got out, the sky was clear, something I was thankful for. I checked the temperature; it was only 60 degrees. Not too bad. I pulled her closer to the center and she looked at me strangely.
"So, we're standing in the middle of a sidewalk because you're-"
She screamed and I laughed as the geysers erupted. She covered her head and I held my arms out wide, turning my face up with a grin. Suddenly, she shoved me. I stumbled but she was laughing. I narrowed my eyes and ran for her. She laughed and tried to run but I ended up tackling her to the padded ground.
"You could've warned me," she panted.
"Hey, there are geysers that erupt," I said and she rolled her eyes.
That's when I realized how close we were. She was on her back and I was propped on my hands. Her green eyes locked on my grey ones and I felt my heart race. They geysers stopped but I couldn't find it in me to get up. Those green eyes.... The smile was slowly fading from her face and I knew mine was, too. I leaned down, turning my head a little. Her eyes closed and, just before our lips touched, the geysers erupted again, one shooting into my forehead.
"Are you okay?" she gasped, rushing over to me.
I had been pushed off of her. I rubbed my forehead grumpily.
"Now that was just rude," I mumbled and she helped me to my feet.
I knew she was trying to stop herself from laughing.
"Come on. Let's go back. I want to get dry. Do you have towels in your car?"
"No but it's just water. It won't ruin anything."
She shrugged. "It's your car."
We rode back in silence. I bit my lip, desperately wanting to hold her hand. She looked happier than she had been when we left the coffee shop.
"Is that the famous fountain?" she asked when we got back home.
I laughed. "Yeah, it is."
I stopped her before we went inside. She was blushing and I put my fingers under her chin. At first she resisted, but she eventually let me lead her face to mine. She looked scared and I couldn't blame her. I put my other hand on her hip and slowly moved her closer. Our lips were so close. I could feel her nose brush against mine.
Then the front porch light turned on. We jumped apart and she blushed as the door opened.
"There you are," my mother said. "I was getting worried about you."
I groaned. "Come on," I mumbled. "Let's go change."