33 // Except Everything

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Like most things in my life, gracefully was not how I dealt with my problems. Less sugar plum ballerina, more three-legged ogre on fire. Dealt also used quite loosely, considering when I accidentally locked eyes with Reese in the hallway or across our lawns or basically anywhere, my immediate reaction was to escape as if I'd been set on hot, hot fire.

     That is to say, less than subtle. About as subtle as a jackhammer to the face.

     Since that moment, the moment I had been so frantically trying to repress from the second I stepped away with wet lips and a throbbing pulse, we hadn't exchanged anything other than a few passing glances. He'd tried, called my name, started toward me, but he was always two steps behind and then I was gone.

     If anything, my immaculate getaway skills were getting a mighty fine workout. Eat your heart out, James Bond.

     When I heard Savannah call my name in the heat of midnight, I'd jumped to my feet, feeling Reese's piercing gaze trained on me as I bolted toward the girl. I'd reassured her that I was fine, smiling sheepishly and scratching the back of my head, desperately ignoring the thrashing of my heart against my ribcage. She didn't question it, asking if I was okay since she'd heard some unsettling things about Isaac, and we left. And I never looked back.

     No one said a word about that night.

     A week later, I could still feel Reese's eyes burning against my back, no matter what I did, his gaze lingered. When I closed my eyes, I could still feel his breath caress my lips. His touch whispered against my skin, his voice murmured in the crook of my neck, his palms travelled across the small of my back. I couldn't forget.

     A frustrated sigh climbed up my throat and I rolled onto my back. I was sprawled out across my bed, eyes opening to glare at the ceiling, directing all my anger at nothing. That intricate knot formed once again in my stomach, the one that had made its residency since Reese's mouth brushed against mine.

     I thought, or well, hoped my emotions would sort themselves out, give it a little time and the right answer would shine through like a lighthouse in the fog of chaos, but it didn't. Sense had ditched me long ago. And as I tried to combine logical thought and that moment, all I got was a discombobulated mess that gave me a headache. It was if someone just proved to me that the sky wasn't blue. The grass wasn't green. Everything I knew was wrong.

     A part of me wanted to just blame the alcohol, flushed cheeks and loose morals and generous lips, but it wasn't that easy. The lie felt cheap behind my teeth, and as my eyes fell shut again, I couldn't deny that it wasn't that simple.

     If it was that simple, I wouldn't be running so desperately from it.

     Melissa's word echoed in the back of my mind, seemingly a lifetime ago, when I had so casually laughed in her face, dismissed her with a wave of the hand, grinning. There was no point, girls like us, they always thought that they were the ones, the ones that could change him, but they never were.

     But I couldn't possible think I was one of those girls.

     He'd kissed me because I was a mouth and he was drunk, probably. I'd decided that his feelings were momentary and skin-deep, only propelled by booze and poor decision making. He'd made such a loud and obnoxious fuss about Savannah, he couldn't possibly have switched gears this late on.

     And I, well, I couldn't stand him. That was what I knew. Reese Powers was the worst, the Antichrist, everything I never looked for in a person.

     There was a part of me, a miniscule, tiny voice that said, maybe I wanted to try it again? But a louder voice told me what I already knew: this was how Reese operated, this was his bread and butter. Getting naive little girls to fall for his tricks, then leaving them lost and lonely as soon as dawn broke.

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