Thursday, March 12, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Tell the smallest boy to go and warn the others; set up a perimeter and stay focused. Don’t let doubt run you out. Don’t let anger warp your vision. You want your eyes clear so you can see the SIGNS. Hear the whistles. Please don’t throw me into all that thistle…

When the white man barks, you throw him what he wants – don’t matter if you agree with it, you got your pick of octogenarians. Sure, if they were animals we would have shot ‘em by now, but they’re propped up with money, lies, and backroom bargains. Shit just bounces off their Teflon teeth. What, you think you got what it takes? Try it. An old man with marble teeth will stick his finger in your chest because it’s been too long since he got his ass handed to him.

Gather all the lies about you; never let the people doubt you. You are bulletproof as long as you keep on smiling, keep hedging, and keep using thirty words when you should use three. Go ahead and switch your style as you move about the country. Chameleons are hard to pin down.

Talk about how you respect women and they’ll never suspect. Talk about how you grew up learning hard lessons. Even if you didn’t. The people who actually learned hard lessons will be too tired to call you out. Make up a patriotic reason your kid died. Funnel money to the daughter you want to fuck.

What if they take their faces off?  Scalpel around the edges and the orange hair goes above the aviators and Clorox smile. The bodies are swapped and no one knows who to vote for. How much you want to bet it wouldn’t make a goddamn difference? They’ll never swap out the folks behind the curtain.

So, go ahead and get outraged. Get passionate. Get loopy. Be irrational. Vote! Pretend like you’ve got this shit on lock cause, son, the reality ain’t gonna sit so well. 


  1. Disturbing.Accurate. Painful. Exactly what flash so-called fiction should be.

  2. I am writing this to you, and I don’t even know your name. Maybe you are my nephew, maybe a deputy sent to do a wellness check, if there are still any deputies around, after... or maybe you are someone alive decades or centuries after I have passed.

    It doesn’t matter, really, I guess. I’m just writing this as a way of saying I, no we, existed. We existed and we were almost noble for a while.

    We read and wrote books. We danced. We sculpted. We painted pictures. We cared about one another. Most of us.

    There have been those who forecast doom and gloom nearly as long as we existed. The end of the world was just around the corner, but there were so many corners. Judgement Day is coming! The beginning of the end. End times. So many times that some forgot to live today, so sure were the doomsayers that tomorrow was never coming.

    I was not one of them.

    Against all evidence to the contrary, I believed in the goodness of the common man. Woman, too. And non-binary people. I always believed that good would triumph over evil. Knowledge over ignorance. Hope over despair.

    I was wrong.

    It all got too complicated. No one saw the big picture any more. The devices we carried gave us access to all the knowledge and the arts of the world. Shakespeare. Yeats. Burns. Names I doubt you’d recognize.

    But they gave access to hucksters, too. People who promised salvation to some and damnation to others. People who promised to make it easier. No thinking required. As long as you had money.

    When the end came, money made no difference. All the suffering the poor endured to make the lives of the super rich like heaven on earth, it made no difference.

    It was the earth itself that called an end to the madness. Some fragment of RNA found its way into an animal, then to another animal, practicing, adapting, and then finally leaping into our species.

    And it didn’t care about art, or knowledge, or wealth. It was programmed to replicate, to infect, to replicate again. And it did its job well.

    The last time I got news, before the internet went down, before the radio went off the air, they said billions died. Billions.

    I never completely trusted the internet, so I had hard copies of the important stuff. Old fashioned, I know, but my books were important. If the house is still standing, you’ll find them there, along with translation keys. Hell you might not even be able to read this.

    If you can, read the Declaration of Independence first. It shows us at our finest. Then read the poetry.

    My time grows short. Think kindly of us, and if you pray, pray for our forgiveness. Once, we had it all. If only we had shared. If only we were kinder. If only we were as noble as we thought we were.

    1. Dan, you continue to amaze me.
      Leland: Chilling and all too real...

    2. Dan, that was intense and chilling. fave line: "When the white man barks, you throw him what he wants – don’t matter if you agree with it, you got your pick of octogenarians."

    3. Sigh, Leland. That was a beautiful and recognizable lament. Writers, we feel and see so much but how can that ever make us happy?

  3. Dangerous
    He is dangerous. You know it as soon as you see him. He stands at the bar, his white t-shirt with sweatstains under the arms. Wranglers that have seen better days. Boots with dried shit on the bottoms and the sides.

    You hesitate. When you set up the meeting, you imagined someone bookish. Wire-rimmed glasses, maybe. A jacket with patches on the sleeves. More Ivy League.

    But you know it’s him. It’s only him, you, and the bartender in the place. You take a deep breath, and you walk up to him.

    He does not look at you. He has a pack of cigarettes, sitting on the bar. You remember their colors. Red, black, and white. Marlboros.

    Without knowing why, really without thinking, you pick up the pack, shake one out, inhaling the scent of Virginia’s finest tobacco.

    “Got a light?” you ask, feeling like Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and you’re embarrassed by how sexy it sounds.

    He doesn’t say anything. From out of nowhere, he conjures a match, strikes it on the bottom of his boot, and holds its flame to the cigarette which has found its way to your mouth.

    You inhale. Your eyes water. It’s been decades since smoke soiled your lungs.

    When you exhale, you look at his profile. He hasn’t shaved in a day or two. His nose is strong, leaning a little to one side. Broken sometime maybe?

    “You’ve got the money?” he says in a voice so soft it surprises you.

    “Yeah.” You inhale again. You reach into your jacket pocket, the inside one, for the envelope that has been radiating heat to your heart for the hour since you’ve left home.

    “Not here. Outside.”

    You stub out your cigarette. He stands up. You follow him into the cold air.

    In the shadows, he holds out his hand. You proffer the envelope.

    He does not open it. He folds it and puts it in his back pocket. “Walk with me.”

    The two of you make your way to a relic of a pickup truck. He opens the driver’s door, carelessly left unlocked. He reaches in.

    And he hands the book to you. Like neon lights, blazing from its cover. Four characters. Numbers actually. 1984.

    You thrust it into your pocket.

    “Be careful with that,” he says, and climbs into the truck. “It’ll you into trouble.”

    “Thanks,” you say, as you listen to the throaty roar of the truck.

    Through the open window, he tosses the pack of cigarettes to you. “And those things will kill ya.”

    1. This one's a real beauty! The guy might as well be standing in my living room...

    2. WOW! I liked this so much. Surprising, suspenseful, romantic AND dystopian? So few words covering so many bases? A rare joy.

  4. Vexation
    I know it vexes him. He sits at his computer, sometimes typing, sometimes staring at the screen. The words no longer come as easily for him.

    For ten years, I have watched. There have been days where he had to ice his fingers because he typed so much, so fast. And there have been days where he slams things on the desk, frustrated because there he's made so little progress.

    I stare at him. This is what really vexes him. I don’t do it to annoy him. I do it out of fascination. How can a man take his thoughts, shape them like clay, and fire them to the page? It is the process which fascinates me.

    He thinks I want something. He looks at me and says “Five minutes more.” I don’t care if it’s five minutes or an hour. I will watch.

    There are times, though, that I decide he should get some fresh air, and I’m not afraid to tell him so. He sighs, grabs his coffee, and we wander familiar paths together.

    I try to make sure he has balance. Creative time and healing time. It’s a weighty job, but I’m up for it. He’s lucky I’m his dog.

    1. Haha! I was thinking something similar about cats the other day. How the Egyptians believed they'd domesticated them 1000's of years ago and we are now only discovering they are the master race and we've been enslaved to do their bidding.One the other hand, if I didn't have to wait on them, would I ever leave my chair???

    2. LOL... now you're thinking like a cat!

    3. MY CATS ARE NOT AT ALL THIS GENEROUS. You Leland have me considering having a pup in my life again and not just because I believe in the magic, awareness, and love in your story.

  5. Tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes greeted her as she peered into the mirror. She knew she wore her emotions too close to the surface. There was no other way. It’s who she was.

    But it made it hurt all the more. Violet was beautiful, so full of life and Catherine openly shared her with those close to her.
Violet’s illness had been managed successfully for quite some time, but in recent weeks things slowly started to decline. No more exuberant, energetic spilling forth of life. The photos Catherine shared made that evident. The pain, wearing on the soul, was beginning to show.

    Her announcement of her passing was almost unbearable.
“Why does it hurt so much,” she asked of the image staring back at her. Tears continued to stream down her face, catching on her chin momentarily before dropping onto her shirt. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and even more rolled down. She wiped away the tears and turned the faucet on.

    Splashing her face with the cool water felt good, but it took away none of the sadness that was building inside.
“Oooh.” Her lips remained in that position as memories of her own losses bounced off the walls of her mind.
Slowly, she understood.

    With each death, she had powered through, shedding tears, but was not really willing to let go. They quietly haunted her mind and only reappeared when there was another death—either within her family circle or friend circle—causing anguish and floods of tears.

    “Fine,” she whispered. “Now ... how do I protect myself? How do I get rid of these feelings?” She waited for the reflection to respond. “Well?”
Still no response. The ghostly apparition in the mirror turned away, leaving her to ponder her options.

    1. I like it! and that she was talking to tha apparition made me shiver.

    2. Thank you Leland. I was surprised when I wrote it. Made me shiver too—the things that come out of my mind!

    3. So much pain effectively shared. I like the way this ends with acceptance and the possibility of resilience.

  6. In a Classroom, 2028

    “Did you all finish your reading assignment?”
    “Yes, Mrs. Thurmon.”
    “Excellent. Now who can tell me about the Great Pandemic of 2020? This question is worth $50,000.”
    “Millions of people died.”
    “Very good, Alicia. What kind of people?”
    “Undesirables, Mrs. Thurmon.”
    “And why were they undesirable? Donny?”
    “They were old.”
    “Yes, and what else?”
    “They didn’t have enough money.”
    “Very good, Tommy. And we know that money only comes to those who work hard, don’t we? So the undesirables must have been what, Dickie?”
    “Exactly so. $50,000 for each of you! Now... yes, Elizabeth?”
    “Why didn’t the people with money help those without money?”
    “We’ve spoken before about the dangers of socialism, Elizabeth. It’s important that people reap what they sow, now isn’t that right?”
    “I guess so.”
    “What if Tommy forgot his lunch one day, and asked you to share? Would that be fair to you? How would Tommy learn to remember his own lunch?”
    “I wouldn’t mind sharing with him, especially if he was dying.”
    “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, am I going to have to call your parents in for a conference again?”
    “No, ma’am. I won’t ask any more questions.”
    “Excellent. And that brings us to our next topic. Loyal obedience. Who can tell me why obedience is a virtue?”
    “Because those with more money are smarter!”
    “Tommy, you are a genius. Your parents must be very proud of you. Now, let’s transfer another million dollars into your account for your excellent behavior.”
    “I always tell my parents what a wise teacher you are, Mrs. Thurmon.”
    “Two million dollars then. Let’s see, whose account should we take that from. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to be using any of her money for anything, and she believes in socialism anyway!”
    “Now, who can tell me who the greatest President of all time was? Little Jared, who do you think?”

    1. Dang Leland,what are you and Maggie smoking out there? No, Nyet, Nah. I refuse to accept this elegant treatise as gospel.

  7. I'll be back with more words, but for now:

    Composing haiku
    Under my red umbrella
    Grateful for the rain.

  8. I’m making me a crazy quilt
    In keeping with the times
    It’s ain’t got no geometry, no reason no rhyme.
    It’s not following a pattern of anything I’ve ever seen
    Just the scraps and bits of finery, from places that I’ve been
    Velvets and silks and embroidery
    Satin, the odd bit of wool, come together in darkness and color and light
    A scattering of luxury
    All the sweetness of memories old, explode in an abstract fantasy
    Salvage some beauty to keep me warm at night
    I’m making me a crazy quilt
    The only kind I know
    Can’t follow a pattern to save my life
    Only the kind to save my soul
    Stitching together these fragments of beauty
    The chaos of the world fades away
    I’m piecing the richness of solitude
    Into the strength for another day

    1. Beautiful... quilters and writers, we take pieces of memories and dreams, and sew them together for another day.

    2. I loved this. It made me happy.

  9. A Willing Suspension, A Fearful Symmetry

    Coleridge described it two centuries ago. It has come to be known as a necessity for fiction, but he said it was related to how readers should consume his “Lyrical Ballads.”

    The willing suspension of disbelief (WSOD), that is.

    I was taught the phrase as part of a course on Romantic poetry - better known by most of you as the Byron and Keats stuff. It is the coin of the realm for creators of fiction, where a reader is only too happy to believe that a kid named Luke, from long ago in a galaxy far, far away, could shut down his computer and use some spooky supernatural Force to make the greatest massé shot in (fake) space Western history.

    These days, we see it in almost every form of media, from books, movies and TV shows (Including “reality” television. Reailty? I mean, c’mon!) to the news. Sure, you count on everything you hear from a talking hairdo on television to be the truth, but I’ve been on the other side of your news mirror (ink-stained, pulpy paper species) and you tell me if you believe what item lands in A1 above the fold or in the first time-part happens organically.

    Sometimes News Sense is more like News ¢ent$.

    And so we come back to Sam Coleridge, a laudanum-imbibing lotus-eater who would maybe be an Adderall-snorting edible-ingester today. Or President. He would require you to believe everything he says is Gospel (and don’t get me started on the WSOD of that subject) and even use your opiate of the masses as the pre-warmed lube for the shtupping.

    But maybe some don’t mind buying into the jive, especially if it fits into the jagged narrative you’ve got hidden under their sheets. Maybe they’re willing to forget what’s right and what’s wrong if it’s entertaining, in a nostalgic sort of “way it used to be” way. When it really wasn’t. They’re just suspending their belief of history and morality to suspend their disbelief in the lies, damned lies and “What-abouts” of the faux-arrogant fearful.

    It’s all so Romantic, in a literary sense. It’s all so tribal in a political one. You do you. I’ll do me. And maybe someday we’ll meet somewhere in the middle, when the smoke clears and truth means truth again. Maybe we can read Blake together.

    Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. We'd have a better chance of rhyming “eye” with “symmetry,” eh, Tyger?

    1. Beautifully worded cynicism... and I'm gonna hope for a time we can all read Blake together. I'm always chasing rainbows.

    2. Yikes. "It’s all so Romantic, in a literary sense.It’s all so tribal in a political one." This doled out some intelligent harmonic daggers but it didn't make me sad only hopeful to change things.

  10. I.

    “I’m right here Mama.”
    It was hopeless. I couldn’t keep the exasperation out of my voice. Standing up, I lingered awkwardly at the top of a short flight of stairs next to our apartment door, looking down at my mother in the doorway. Attitude for days on my face and coursing through my body, I tamped down on all of it so this didn’t turn into World War III in the hallway of our building.
    I stood there a tad defiantly anyway, just out of reach of her snatching me into the house, but waiting for her to check me out. Waiting for her to see that not only were all my clothes on, and that there wasn’t a hair out of place from when she saw me go outside to hang with my friends three hours earlier.
    “Who are you there with?”
    I glance over at him sitting one flight up on the steps next to me. Out of my mother’s view.
    “It’s just Jake, Mama.”
    “It’s me, Mrs. Day. No worries.”
    Jake stood then, unraveling his long thickly muscled body to lean his torso over the banister so Mama could see his face. He had the audacity to send a full grin her way too, like he knew he was the finest thing on 151st Street and could even charm my salty Mama into giving him anything he wanted. Even if, anything he wanted, was me.
    Mama wasn’t fazed though. Scowling, first at him, then directly at me, she said, “Thirty minutes, Haley. Not a second more. You still have school.”
    I nodded somewhat politely but my eyes told a different story. School started at 9:30am for seniors on the honor roll, which meant I still had eleven and a half hours to sleep and get there on time in the morning. Jesus, I’d be in college in less than a year. Was some slack a foreign concept in my mother’s world?
    Mama closed the door firmly as if she could read my thoroughly embarrassed mind and it had annoyed her. I imagined her though standing next to the door shaking her head back and forth with worry. I know she worried about pregnancy. But somehow that wasn’t the biggest worry lately. Somehow she knew that Jake was more trouble than she was prepared to handle because of how I felt about him. Lust she could take, but matters of the heart perplexed her and had ever since her relationship with Dad died on the vine nine years ago.
    “C’mere.” Jake whispered.
    He was holding his hand out to me. When I took it he pulled me closer to him, in between his legs, as he sat back down on the steps. His linebacker thighs resting heavily against either side of my hips—not letting me move or get away. As if that was even a consideration I was actively having.
    I looked up into Jake’s eyes wishing I had more room in my mind for easy, uncomplicated thoughts when it came to him. We’d been dancing around this thing for so long I’m surprised on the daily that he’s still here, in full on pursuit of something I’d only tentatively indicated was already his to have.
    I was fourteen when I first saw Jake and Adele talking on the corner. His arm resting on her shoulder while he played with the long hair she always kept pulled back like a huge puff of black smoke coming out of her head. I honestly didn’t know what he saw in her. She was stuck up and flat as a board up top. A former island girl who knew her worth, Adele seemed to have Jake sprung like a rotisserie chicken. My own breasts had pushed themselves out for a worldview overnight by then. But Adele still had something else I didn’t have. Reputation.
    Word was she could rock a man’s world in between the sheets. Whatever was between that girl’s legs sent out flares for any man within a forty block radius. Dudes from as far away as Eighth Ave and even across the bridge had been up in the Heights scouting for her. But it was also well known that nobody turned Adele’s head or body anywhere it didn’t want to go. That is until Jake Russell set his sights on her. Jake and Adele had been an item since their junior year of high school.
    I was only a freshman then but I’d watched it all go down like a train wreck on my heart. See I was in love with Jake. And no, he didn’t know I was alive. Like, at all. Not then.

  11. II.

    It might have stayed that way for me too if it hadn’t been for the writing. I’d been doing it since my mom had set me up in this after school enrichment class held at the nearby Harlem School of the Arts. Scribeoria was a non-profit that supported published writers sitting for a couple hours every week with young would be writers. White grad students who mostly wrote for literary magazines ran the sessions. Hanging in the hood with little Black and Brown creatives was such a gas it inspired them apparently. It was surprisingly helpful for us too and I enjoyed going so much pretty soon I was writing every day. That little boost helped me win $150 in a small writing contest and cemented my mom’s idea that I was hot shit. If she only knew that without her encouragement to join the creative writing club in my new school, I might never have discovered Jake Russell and I were meant for each other.
    Suffice to say Jake still didn’t notice me in the club at first but he was indelibly imprinted in my mind the first time I heard one of his essays. He refused to read them out loud but the teacher, a well meaning woman with dreams of being an agent if not a best selling author, could not be contained. Almost every week she’d read some of Jake’s work. Biting torment dripped from every sentence Jake wrote. There was so much heartache in his words I couldn’t believe it. He’d always seemed like a tough pretty boy but happy. Someone who’d sailed through the prisms of his life untouched by anything but the occasional rainbow.
    He was a bizarre combination to be sure. A dazzling track star and top rated wrestler that didn’t act like a douche bag with those who weren’t into sports, or even for that matter, those who were. He had a great wit and could snap cleanly on anyone without making them mad. I loved his mind first. But his body made me so hangry it was hard to look at him for very long. I think that’s how he first noticed me.
    I was asked to read one of my poems. It wasn’t really a poem. It was more of a screed about love and the lack of it in the world. I was wishing the teacher had asked me to read something else but I got up anyway. I liked reading out loud. Even if it wasn’t my own work. There was something about doing it that made me feel like I could be any kind of writer I wanted. If I could read someone’s words, anyone’s and do them justice, then finding my own voice in a crowd shouldn’t be too hard.
    When I finished, you could hear some deep sighs and a few hums. That was it though for a whole six seconds. I looked up finally. My audience of about ten teenagers, mostly girls, weren’t looking at me. Except for Jake. In fact, five more seconds passed where he and I stared at each other until he finally said something amazing.
    “Dang, L’il Spice. I didn’t know you had all that in ya.”
    And what I said to that was something that’s still hard to believe and totally regrettable.
    “I don’t.”
    Then flustered and pissed, I grabbed my stuff, left the room, and didn’t go back to the club for the rest of the school year.

  12. III.

    It’s hard to believe that day led to this one. Unless you knew the next thing that Jake said to me four months later—that June on the last day of school. I was standing at my locker right after homeroom. Freshman lockers were together and away from everyone else’s so we didn’t catch upperclassman swagger too early. That’s how I knew he’d sought me out and didn’t just bump into me.
    “L’il Spice?”
    I knew it was him. Even if I hadn’t heard that awful nickname. I froze, staring at the back of my locker.
    He came closer. I couldn’t feel his breath on my neck but I felt his presence just the same. The tiny hairs all over my body bristled and levitated of their own accord.
    He leaned down, his face close to my ear and said, “You should come back to the club. You’re the only one who knows how to spit it out on the paper like you mean it. I want to see you there next semester a’ight?”
    I didn’t know what to say so I nodded.
    “Nah, I need you to promise you’ll come. I need to hear the words.”
    The beginnings of a smile pierced my heart as well as my face. That’s probably what gave me the courage to turnaround. Jake took a step back, giving my words plenty of room for expression.
    I cleared my throat.
    “I promise.”
    “Good.” He said, smirking. Then he gave me the once over, his eyes loitering on my heaving chest. His eyebrows squeezed together briefly before he brought his eyes back to my face. Nodding brusquely, he walked away without another word.
    My chest was heaving now too as I stood between Jake’s legs in my mother’s hallway three years later. Jake unbuttoned my coat, spreading it open on either side to get a better look. Having him stare at my chest intently did nothing to calm my breathing.
    Jake had broken his shoulder in senior year so there was no sports scholarship. He decided to forgo college to work for his father. He and Adele broke up in senior year too. I’d heard about eighteen different versions of why they had, but none of them from him. I never asked him about it either. I didn’t want to know. I’d won. So, I didn’t need to know. We’d started dating this past January after bumping into each other at a house party.
    The way we danced that night and kissed every day from that night to this one you’d think we’d been doing the nasty for years. But what no one knew was we never got that far. I was holding out on him. I had been for months. His hallway campaign had started a few weeks ago with Jake saying he wanted to walk me home and talk alone before I went into my house. And talk we did, for hours each time. And kiss too. And fondle each other until I thought I’d go crazy.
    “Why you breathing so hard?” He said finally. “I haven’t touch you. You scared of me?”
    “No. Not. . . not scared of you, Jake.”
    “Then, what then?”
    “I’m scared of me.”
    Jake gave me that look he sometimes has when I’ve amused him but really what I’ve done was confuse him into laughing at me. This was no joke for me though. I had to find a way to explain myself.
    The dilemma must have shown in the frown on my face. Jake squeezed his thighs together a little to get my attention. When my eyes found his again I knew he was eager to hear me speak but he’d wait until I did before he said anything else. Jake was surprisingly stubborn for someone so even tempered.
    I began again.
    “I’m scared because…”
    Jake nodded as if I needed encouragement to finish sentences.
    “L’il Spice.” He said with a grin. “You’re killing the mood.”
    His tone was only mildly exasperated in a way that embarrassed me and made me want to kiss him at the same time.

  13. IV.

    “That’s what I’m afraid of Jake. This thing with us has only been really real for a few months. I know you…you and Adele…”
    The minute I said her name I could feel the lockdown. Still keeping his thighs wrapped around me Jake leaned back fully placing his elbows on the step behind him. His mouth twisted. He wouldn’t look me straight in the eye. That only made it worse though because now for certain I wouldn’t be able to stop.
    “You and Adele were together for seventeen months. And she… you and she were already… you know. You were close.”
    He’d elongated both words into such a tremendous sigh, it seemed to come all the way up from his size 11 Jordan’s before it came out of his mouth.
    I hated this. I was never uncomfortable with my words. Mama said I should be a writer because every time I open my mouth I know just what I want to have come out of it. That wasn’t exactly true. However, this awkwardness about expressing myself was alien to me. But then, so was having a boyfriend. A real boyfriend like Jake. Taking a deep breath, I braced myself by placing my hands on Jake’s thighs then I attempted to spill what was freaking me out. My words came out as unemotional as I could make them sound.
    “Jake, you and Adele were having sex. I know guys need it more than girls do but I’m wondering how long is it going to be before you’ve lost interest in me if… if I can’t bring myself to… to give you what you need from me? If I don’t want to…I mean?
    There. I’d said it. During my speech I’d let my eyes roam the hallway, the walls, and even stared at my hands clenching Jake’s thighs. Now I forced myself to look back up at Jake directly. Forced myself to calm down so I could detect exactly how he felt about what I’d asked him.
    “How do you know exactly how long Adele and I were together?”
    “I don’t know. You must of have told me.”
    He was shaking his head back and forth slowly before I even finished answering him.
    “Nah. I don’t even know how long we were together and I was at least half of the ‘we’ you’re talking about.”
    I shrugged like a six year old and threw my hands up in the air, staring at the ceiling of our hallway now.
    “Well, I don’t know. Maybe someone else told me.”
    Jake reached out to grasp my chin, pulling at it, making me look at him.
    “Maybe. Or maybe you were just paying attention. Maybe you were paying more attention to what Adele and I were doing than I was.”
    Now I was genuinely confused.
    “Is that supposed to make me feel better Jake?”
    “I’m trying to tell you how it was, not make you feel some way about it.”
    “Look, Adele and me that was something so different than this. Then me and you. It doesn’t even rest in the same space in my head, you feel me?”
    I like that he said that so much I couldn’t answer him with words. My head turned into a bobble toy—up and down it went.
    “As for the other—”
    “You mean sex.”
    He grinned sweetly in a way that made me want to kiss him again. Who was I kidding? I always wanted to kiss Jake. Knowing that was kinda of funny because of what he said next.
    “You may be scared but I don’t think that means you don’t want to. I think it’s cause you don’t know what to expect. We’re all scared of the unknown, I think. Because I’m a little more…knowledgeable than you doesn’t mean I’m not a little scared too. It just means I know for sure how much… how good it might be.”
    The big sigh came from Jake then as he wrapped his long fingers into the belt loops on my jeans and pulled me back and forth a little.
    “I don’t want you to be scared of anything you and I do Haley. We can take it slow. As slow as you want. I can’t lie and say I don’t want more though. Can we keep talking about it? No pressure. I just want to know what scares you okay? Don’t shut me out.”
    That I could answer easily.
    “Never, ever gonna happen. I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”


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