"He sells you those weird diet pills?"

"Ugh." Was there anyone in the world she hated more than Jake Shulman? Jessa shook her head at the question. "He used to sell them to my friend Ona."

"His girlfriend?"

"Yeah. I'm guessing she gets them for free now." Jessa jabbed her pen into the ground in an aimless pattern, feeling the soil give way into small craters.

"Hmm." The guy didn't say anything else. He laid back on his forearms, mimicking Jessa's earlier pose.

She didn't want to ask his name, but the question itched at a spot between her shoulder blades. He interrupted before she gave in to the urge to scratch.

"Ona's here all the time. Why haven't I seen you?"

Jessa fixed her gaze on the smoker. What a terrible name. She shrugged again. "I'd rather swim in raw sewage than hang out with Ona and Jake at the same time."

He coughed as he laughed, the sound sandpaper rough in his throat. "Speak your mind, why don't you."

"I'm sorry if he's your friend," Jessa said, grinding the point of the pen into the soft plastic of her flip-flops.

"I take no offense."

"No, I'm sorry if he's your friend," Jessa repeated. "It's pretty tragic."

He shook his head, glancing back at the house as another drunk couple stumbled out onto the rickety back porch. Jessa wondered if they'd magnetically pull him back into the party and she could have her patch of wild grass back.

"We used to be friends," the smoker said. "I guess my life is a little less tragic now."

Jessa nodded her approval. "Good choice."

He tilted his head to the side, pursing his lips and swiping the pen from Jessa's idle hand.

"Hey." Jessa lunged at him, trying to steal the pen back, but he pulled it out of her reach. She steadied herself against his shoulder, pushing back and sitting back on the warm earth.

"That's my pen," she said, dusting her hands off on her shorts.

"I'll trade you."

Jessa rolled her eyes. "It's a two dollar pen, so don't get your hopes up."

He held out his right arm, the pen clutched in his dirty hand. "You can have the pen back if you draw on my arm."

"What do you want me to draw?"


Jessa barked a laugh. "Anything?"

He opened his palm, offering her the pen. She took it with her right hand, then pulled his forearm into her lap with her left. He leaned away, stubbing the cigarette out on the ground, then scooted closer. Jessa admired the canvas of his skin, the warm tan, the faint white lines that reminded her of running through scratchy brambles behind Ona's house when they were younger.

Jessa let the world sink away. The music from the house became a low, slow drumbeat. The city lights on the horizon dimmed, turning down the sky. She ran her hand over the smoker's skin as she drew, feeling his pulse under her fingers as she turned his wrist back and forth.

She sketched an outline first, feathery and light. Lines stretched across his arm, growing and changing as she added detail.

"Is it a skyline?" he asked.

You've reached the end of published parts.

⏰ Last updated: Jul 15, 2016 ⏰

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