20. Immaculate Misconception

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“And then you’ll carefully return the ID and…” I stopped my sentence and sighed instead, not really caring about the purse, only wanting to argue with Emily. “Where are we going?”

“North,” she said. “We’ll work out the rest when we get there.”

“Where will we stay? What will we eat?”

“We’ll have to make do,” my temptress replied. “We’ll forage. We’ll be survivalists, Jacob—urban survivalists.” Alabaster skin framed thick red lips I couldn’t help but imagine wrapped around me. It was as though our first time together was designed to give her an unholy power over every subsequent interaction we had.

I shrugged. “My dad’s going to kill me for disappearing like this.”

“Then don’t go home,” Emily said.

“I have to go home.”

“If David were here, he’d laugh you out of the car for saying that.”

“What do you mean? You talked to David?” I asked, realizing then that it bothered me.

“Of course I talked to David—a bunch.” She shrugged. “So do Cameron and Steven and Kent. Y’know, I was kinda wondering where you were.”

“How could no one tell me you’ve been meeting at David’s? I’m a part of this, too.”

“Well, where have you been?” Lipstick dark like pooled blood, gently kissing each word before it left her lips.

“Locked away in some shitty warehouse for lazy kids. What do you think? Now I really want to go home, I’ve gotta see David.”

“David says,” she said, “there is no such thing as ‘home.’ He says that concept is no good for us, and we have to come to see wherever we are at any given moment as being home.” His words, her mouth. Reminded me of all the other ways David got to have Emily.

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“It’s pretty simple. Look, you still think that trailer is home, right? So what, are you going to be there your whole life? Everything goes away or dies or abandons you eventually. Everything is temporary. The only way to live is to accept that fact and deal with it. That’s what we play. Nothing is more temporary than we are.”

The conversation ended; I focused on driving, on Texas as twilight overtook us, as the flat, arid landscape slowly grew hillier, each successive crest increasing in elevation like a wave gathering momentum as it neared the shore.

I leaned back, resting one hand on the wheel. “I miss you sometimes,” I said.

I didn’t want to care for Emily, because I knew she didn’t care for me—but I couldn’t forget what we’d been through, either. Even as the words left my mouth, I braced myself for impact: I knew she’d have some clever quip, some way of telling me to be a man. Some way of comparing me to David.

“I missed you too,” she said.

As night began to wrap around our little metal box under the stars, I pulled into a small, sleazy motel in a town somewhere in North Texas. I’d been further north before, with Dad, but I’d been a kid then and didn’t remember my way around the state. Emily had fallen asleep and was stretched out over the passenger seat, legs splayed lewdly on the dash, leaving me to drive in silence.

I’d dreamed of running away, of exploring the world, of course. And here was Emily with me, my partner in crime. There was a certain liberating thrill to running away. Despite all this, a bit of despair tugged at my chest as I broke away from Kingwood and into the wild.

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