We Told Six Lies(6)

I didn’t want to ask him, but I had to.

I had to.

“Will you be here when I get back?”

I sounded so hopeful that it made me sick.

Holt sighed. “I don’t know, man. I was just hanging out with some buddies for a night. And seeing what was up with you. I got class tonight, though, so I’ll probably drive back soon.”

I shrugged like I didn’t care, but I wanted to hug my brother. That’s all I wanted right then. A goddamned hug, and so what?

“K. See you next time.”

“Don’t wear a condom,” Holt called as I walked away. “I’m ready to be an uncle.”

“Idiot,” I muttered.

“Who were you talking to?” Dad asked.

“Holt is here.”

Dad glanced down the hallway, but Holt was probably already halfway asleep on my bed. That’s what he used to do when he came home—partied with old friends and used our house as hangover headquarters. I doubted anything had changed.

Dad’s eyes slid to mine. “Did you need a ride to school?”

I shook my head and made for the door.

“Cobain,” he said.

I walked faster, but when he called my name again, I turned around.

He looked at me for a long time, like he wanted to tell me something important. But then he just shook his head and said, “Have a good day, all right?”

I nodded and left, gritting my teeth. Despising the hopeful look on my father’s face, like maybe when I came home from school today, I’d do so with a load of friends, a B plus on my chem test, and an application for the wrestling team.

I didn’t know why I was the way I was. Why my brain ticked a little differently. But it hurt to feel the dreams my father harbored, day after day, as if he were holding his breath, waiting for the moment when I’d be the son he always hoped I’d be.


For five days, I’d tried to make my way to you, Molly.

I’d tried to cut through your pack of friends and single you out. But they formed a wall around you, leaning their heads forward, searching for an answer to the question even I had to ask— Were you beautiful?

Or just odd?

Looking at you was like watching a sphynx cross the street. It’s not that you’re surprised to see a cat in the neighborhood, it’s that you didn’t expect to see a hairless cat. A pink, wrinkled, wide-eyed cat that’s so strange looking that at first you think, That thing just isn’t right. But then you can’t take your eyes off it. And you find yourself following it, and smiling at it, and pretending to hold a bit of food to see if it’ll come closer.

You were like a hairless cat.

No way would I tell you that.

It was Friday, two days and one full school week after you’d touched my face. I couldn’t go into another weekend without talking to you, but I needed a plan. I was still working through what to say to you when I spotted you standing outside the glass doors. You had your phone to your ear, and your face was pinched.

You turned, briefly, and our eyes connected.

There were tears in them.

I wanted to kill whoever put them there. Finding the words to talk to you was like having my molars ripped from my jaw, but fighting? That’s something I understood well.

You lowered the phone and put it in your pocket. Hugged your arms around your stomach.

I pushed through the doors. Your eyes locked with mine, and you held my gaze like a challenge.

“You okay?” I asked.

You smiled and raised your chin. “I’m right as rain.”

I didn’t understand what you meant.

You sighed. “It’s just my mom. She’s being difficult. This move has been hard on her.”

“But not for you,” I said.

You frowned. “Yes, for me, too.” You hugged yourself tighter, and I noticed how painfully thin you were. You’d look better with more weight, I decided, and something told me you could easily gain it if you allowed yourself to eat.

“Who are you?” you asked.

You asked this like you’d forgotten me—like you’d never grabbed my face and looked at me like you were the only person in the entire world who saw me. Your dismissive words stung more than my mom’s constant preoccupation. More than my dad’s hope.

I realized then that I’d been making up a relationship with you in my head. That I had pretended all weekend that you’d thought of me. I’d pretended you’d lain in bed and wondered what the rest of me felt like.

I’d committed every detail of you to memory.

Even a few I’m not sure you wanted people to see.

My brain had skipped a hundred steps and fast-forwarded to the point where we could lie down beside each other, hold hands, and not say a single word as the clouds crept across the sky.

You weren’t there yet, but I wanted you to be.

“Wanna go somewhere?” I asked.


That quick.


I nodded toward the fence that surrounded the school, and you and I jogged toward it. I started to crawl up so I could help you from the other side, but you were right there beside me, scaling that chain-link fence and throwing your leg over.

You were wearing a skirt.

And I wasn’t about to look away.

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