SUCKERS

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Love was for suckers.

Jessa doodled on the tanned inside of her left wrist, tracing the blue line of a vein into a mountain range. There were no mountain ranges in suburban Illinois, but she could imagine mountains. She could imagine a lot of things, like a world where her best friend hadn't been consumed in a fiery torrent of hormones, then had her ashes scattered at the pinnacle of Jake Shulman Mountain.

It was a heavy image, but better than thinking of Ona and Jake having sex somewhere in the house behind her. Bass from the summer party pulsed through the night, hitting her heart off-beat. Actual music vented from the house whenever someone stumbled out the door and onto the porch, only to be stopped by the unkempt grass, the darkness, the look of abandon of the yard that sloped off into a rough forest-look-a-like, a clump of trees that divided Jake's house from the nearby highway.

Jessa's mountain range developed a steep, ragged looking peak, like a broken tooth sticking up out of the earth. She tucked the pen behind her ear and sank back into the tall, wild grass of Shulman's backyard, running her fingers through individual blades, feeling it tickling at the back of her neck. Indigo spread across the sky like dye in water, the horizon dipped in red from nearby city light. Fireflies phased in and out of the dusk.

Guitar strings snapped the air as someone pushed the rusty screen door open, bad music filling the silence like a puff of smoke dispersing into the night. Jessa poked her head up, hoping for Ona. As the red cherry of a cigarette burned into the dark, she hid back in the grass. Ona was into a lot of terrible things: self-tanner, diet pills, and bleach, but cigarettes weren't on the list.

Not until her next boyfriend told her she looked hot while smoking, or something equally disgusting. Why would she have been dumb enough to hope for Ona? She had probably forgotten she even invited Jessa to the party.

Jessa's eyes were fixed on the firefly light show as the smoker's steps came nearer. She waited until there was a good chance she'd get stepped on before she cleared her throat, giving away her presence.

"Shit." The yelp was high-pitched, followed by the sound of the smoker tripping over his own ankles, landing in the grass with a graceless thud.

Jessa pushed up onto her elbows as a courtesy, examining the prone figure beside her. She had barely escaped getting kicked in the head. Next time she'd speak up sooner.

The smoker, whose cigarette glowed in the dark, having escaped any untoward fate, looked only mildly familiar. His hair was closely shaved and dark, his brow thick over brown eyes with heavy black lashes. His mouth was thin, a pale old scar adorning his upper lip.

"Sorry." Jessa's voice was sullen as lead. Her companion waved a hand and took a drag from his cigarette, turning his head to blow the smoke away from her.

Jessa sat up a little more, pushing her unkempt brown hair behind her ear, knocking the pen out of its place.

They reached for it at the same time. Jessa snatched the pen away, but noticed his hand—wide, short-clipped nails with stained cuticles. Tanned skin and dirt in the creases of his palm.

"That's cool." He gestured to her arm.

Jessa shrugged.

They sat there in their own silence, the rest of the night providing enough sound to keep them satisfied. Bad music, shrill laughter, crackling cricket legs and not-too-distant traffic.

"How do you know Jake?"

Jessa mimed vomiting, jabbing her index finger into her throat.

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⏰ Last updated: Jul 15, 2016 ⏰

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