Chapter 1

A fifteen-year-old girl has needs. I had spent the past three 
summers at this beach without making a single friend, and
now, with tenth grade staring me in the face, I was completely in
need of human linkage. All the previous summers had been the
same, but they didn’t seem this bad. I had to get out. I needed to
at least look at real people. The beach was always full of them,
like ants. I could be an ant; I wanted to be an ant.
Not to mention that I actually had something to talk about.
My mom had sent me the Future Teachers of America letter
that said what school and what teacher I would be assigned
to when school started again. I held onto it all day, but I didn’t
open it. This wasn’t just any letter. My future transportation
hinged on where I was assigned—and this was the first time I
even cared about having a future. My mom would buy me a car
if I was assigned to a school in the nearby town of Mira Mesa,
but if I was assigned to the elementary school near my Scripps
Ranch high school, I would be riding the bus. The letter was
precious and toxic all at the same time. I wasn’t brave enough
to face it alone.
My dad had called while I microwaved a Hot Pocket to say
he would be working until ten or later every night until they hired
a new security guard at the yacht club. I couldn’t wait until ten to
open the letter. I wrapped my dinner in a paper towel, grabbed my pink hoodie, and walked to the beach so I could watch the sunset, open the toxic letter surrounded by uncaring ants, and then go to
the pier’s bait shop for a pity (or celebratory) ice cream.
Sitting cross-legged on the cold concrete boardwalk wall near
the Ocean Beach pier, I took a deep cleansing breath and got
ready to finally open it. The sun had already dropped into the
ocean, and the purple evening sky was already darkening when
a twinge of the creepy crawlies ran down my neck. I felt someone
standing entirely too close behind me. I decided not to look back.
I focused on the letter and took another deep breath. I finally lifted
the letter up.
But what if it was good news? I would probably make a com-
plete fool of myself. Yeah, I did it all the time. There were people
everywhere—stupid ants—including whoever was standing way
too close behind me. Public humiliation would totally ruin the
moment. I set the envelope down and looked back at the person
behind me.
He was tall, thin, and just unbelievably perfect. He had to be
an American Eagle model. He wore a stylishly buttoned white
long-sleeved shirt that hung over faded jeans. And he was old,
like in his thirties old.
He smiled down at me.
I turned away in a panic. Mr. Perfect was way out of my
league. Beside, old guys who looked like him slept with everyone
(especially teenage girls), did whatever drug was put in front of
them, and cared only about expensive cars. I stared back at the
waves, not breathing.
He sat down on the wall next to me, closer than was socially
acceptable. I knew for an absolute fact that my face was flooding
with blood. Any stress, good or bad, and my face turned beet red.
I turned so completely away from him that my neck was strain-
ing. I breathed in deep and tried so insanely hard not to smile.
It wasn’t working. I had lost complete control of my mouth. If it
was a homeless guy, I would have gotten up and jumped down
to the tide pools. If it was anyone else, I would have gone to the
tide pools. But now I just sat there, hoping like an idiot he was
smiling too.
I looked over at him, smiling as coolly as possible, as he
settled down on the wall. He stretched his long jean-covered legs, removed his flip-flops, and rubbed his feet together to get the
sand off. I was totally staring. When he finished, he glanced over
at me and smiled. My heart bulged in my chest. His eyes were a
silvery white constrained by a circle of thick black. They were two
of the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. I drew in a deep breath
and totally leaned like an idiot into his face. My brain finally kicked
in and screamed, “IDIOT!” I shook my whole soul out, smiled, and
quickly looked back to the ocean. I felt absolutely ridiculous. I was
absolutely ridiculous.
I couldn’t tell just how old Mr. Perfect was, but it didn’t matter.
Life in Ocean Beach revolved around the main strip of little beach
shops, and making a fool of myself with this guy would surely
make another part of town off-limits. I already wasn’t allowed to
walk on the bad side of the strip because of the biker bars and
tattoo shops. Wherever Mr. Perfect frequented would definitely
become unbearable, and I still had two months of summer left. I
folded my letter, got up without looking at him, and walked up the
stairs to the pier.
The Ocean Beach pier was longer than any pier I had ever
been on, and the end split to the left and right. It was my pier.
When you live at the foot of a thing like that, you might as well
own it. My dad’s apartment building sat just a few hundred feet to
the side of where the pier connected to the shore. I walked up the
pier stairs and down the concrete pier slowly, just as I had since
I was a little girl with my pink ribbon blowing in the sea breeze.
I passed up the first two wooden benches and climbed onto the
third bench, sitting on the backrest. I knew exactly what I could
and could not see from that bench, and I would be able to see the
storm wall where Mr. Perfect was sitting.
I looked down at the beach casually, and then slowly looked
up the pier and back down the storm wall. He was there. And he
was staring back at me. My stomach clenched, and blood flooded
to my face again. I had to admit that my horrible low-blood-sugar
shaking feeling was part of it too. A week before I left for my dad’s
apartment, the stupid doctor said I might have severely low blood
sugar. And no, I had not been eating right. I smoothly hopped
down from the bench, and as calmly as I could, I walked up the
rest of the pier, regretting that I hadn’t chosen somewhere else to
open my letter.
The tourists had all gone home, but the locals were still fish-
ing. It was the best time to fish, actually. Everyone who fished
was always so friendly. I peered into every bucket as I walked by
and smiled at those who had good catches. As I neared the bait
store/restaurant, I breathed in the fishy smell. To most people,
that smell meant rot, but it made me think of my dad sitting in his
foldable chair and watching his three poles. We always fished
near the bait shop, and I never knew why. I thought about get-
ting an ice cream from the tiny restaurant, but the large man who
worked there was hosing off the water tanks for the baitfish. I
didn’t want to be a pain, and besides, I hadn’t opened the letter
yet. I wanted to open my letter all by myself at the end of the pier.
I always loved hanging my feet high above the ocean, and I could
make as much of a fool out of myself as I wanted to at the end
of the pier.
The pier lights clicked on and cast a blinking yellow glow just
as I reached the end, and then they went out again. I knew they
would stay on for at least five minutes after the fourth flicker, so
I could read my letter then. An older couple saw me and walked
away as I approached. As they should have. When people walked
all the way to the end of the pier, they usually wanted to be alone,
so everyone else could be counted on to forfeit the space when
someone new came along. If the people who were already there
didn’t walk away, you were expected to turn around and leave
them alone. They obviously needed the end of the pier more than
you did.
I took off my flip-flops and sat on the cold concrete, dangled
my feet over the edge, and rested my head on my arms so I
could see between the wood railings. He wasn’t there anymore.
I scanned the parking lot, the beach, and the park area next to
the lifeguard building, but I didn’t see anyone who might be him.
I was glad he was gone.
I pulled the letter out, but the wind cut me with its chill. There
was no way I would be able to get the letter out of the envelope
and stop it from flying out of my hands once the wind kicked up.
And my thin jacket was no match for the wind this far up the pier,
so I folded the letter into my pocket again and got up to leave.
Then I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Walking toward
the bait shop.
He had his arm around a young Goth whore. I sat back down.
To my horror, they appeared on the other side of the bait shop,
walking toward me. I willed with all my heart for them to turn
around. It didn’t work. I could hear the girl laughing as they walked
toward me.
I stood up in the hopes they would see me and go the other
way, but it didn’t work. They either didn’t know the custom or
didn’t care. Then, for some stupidly insane reason, I imagined his
arm wrapped around me. I had no idea why that popped into my
head. He was so far out of my league it wasn’t funny. But I just
knew he would be warm and smell heavenly.
I leaned on the railing and looked back at the beach. They
stopped just beyond the yellow pier light I was standing under,
and she started sucking on his neck. It was really gross. She wig-
gled and moaned while he stood still like a statue. I would have
turned away, but he was staring intently at me with those silvery
eyes. Her spiky black hair entangled with his entirely too long and
entirely too smooth light brown hair—and I hated her.
I turned toward them to make it very clear I saw what he was
doing, but he only smiled. It was a glorious smile. His perfect body
contrasted sickeningly with her fat butt, which was squeezed into a
shiny black plastic skirt. He weaved his fingers into her short spiky
black hair and reached down, forcefully pulling her hips tighter to
him. He smiled at me the whole time. The image of his wonderful
arms wrapped around her creepy body was so disgusting that it
moved into stupidly funny. Then the lights began to flicker again.
The scene had moved into B-movie mode. I let a small giggle
escape, but it was cut off when he pulled his lips back from his
teeth, showing me a mouth full of long fangs. I looked away. There
was no way I had seen what I thought I saw. He was pretty far away
and standing in the shadows, but I had seen perfect white fangs.
His fingers weaved through her hair and became more like claws
as he yanked her head back and sank his fangs into her neck.
I don’t know what my face was doing, but he watched me very
carefully. I was too frightened to move. I did not see any blood,
and she did not seem to be in pain. What would I have done if she
were? I was not seeing what I was seeing.
It finally occurred to me that he was one of those freaks who
thought they were vampires, which made perfect sense. His fangs, though, were far better than cheap plastic ones. He must
have been a rich nutcase who was into teenage girls. He was too
perfect looking, so of course he was nuts. I stood confidently, smil-
ing, and then I slowly slipped on my flip-flops and walked away.
It was even darker now, and most of the fishermen were pack-
ing up to leave. Two police officers walked toward us to clear the
pier off so they could lock the gates. I looked back to see if my
fake vampire freak knew to leave, then I started in surprise. He
was walking right behind me. His girl stumbled a bit, but she was
fine otherwise. I almost tripped over my own feet as I turned back
to keep walking.
The old man who had worked in the bait shop for years
reached out to help me and asked, “You alright?”
I nodded, thinking I should totally stop and talk to him. He had
been serving me ice cream for years, and I trusted him. Well, not
the I-would-get-into-his-car kind of trust, but the I-can-stop-and-
talk kind of trust. He wouldn’t let any gorgeous freak do anything
to me. But if I stopped, he would want to talk to me all the time. I
walked on down the pier with just a smile to the bait guy.
It was nerve-racking to walk all the way down the pier without
looking back again. The police officers finally reached me and
nodded. They told him to have a good night as they passed us.
OMG, he was close.
I didn’t go down the stairs at the end of the pier. Instead, I
walked straight out to the end of the pier and onto the street. I
stopped and leaned against one of the bright yellow concrete
columns that had been recently installed to keep cars off the pier.
I had never heard of a car on the pier, but I was grateful for their
existence. I casually slipped my hands in my jacket pockets and
turned around to check out the pier, like I just wanted to see the
ocean again.
They walked right past me, still wrapped in each other’s arms.
I glared right into his silver eyes as they passed. His warm, tanned
skin, thick light-brown hair, and shockingly bright eyes threatened
my ability to breathe. His hands were no longer like claws. My
brain totally thought he had claws—but it must have been a trick
of the light, or maybe my sometimes-unbalanced mind was add-
ing effects to the fake fangs. I leaned against the column for a
long time, watching him walk. He really was amazing to watch.
I shook my head and turned my attention to the letter again.
Reverently, I held the letter up to the streetlight, slipped my finger
under the flap, and ripped the envelope in all the wrong places.
A strong breeze almost stole it away. I definitely didn’t want to be
chasing the letter down the street like an idiot with Mr. Perfect not
that far away. I flipped the letter open and found my assignment
listed at the bottom in bold.
Mrs. Dickerson, third grade, Mira Mesa.
Score! I was getting a car. Unfortunately, I got overexcited and
did the chicken dance—arms flapping and all. The chicken dance
was reserved for locker celebrations. Once one person started
the chicken dance, everyone was required to join in. It was a rule,
and no one broke that rule. But no one would be dancing with me
while I was stuck in OB, so I stopped.
I needed confirmation.
“Opened fta letter, school in mira mesa,” I texted my mother.
“And?” she sent back.
I rolled my eyes and strangled my phone. “When am i getting
a car?”
She took her sweet time responding. I leaned back on the
pole, holding tight to my phone. I wasn’t worried that she would
change her mind or come up with some kind of new condition. If
she said she would buy a giraffe for me, I knew I was getting a
giraffe. My mother was trying to create a clever response. She
probably typed several comments, and then cleared them out.
“Can you stay drug free?” she finally wrote.
“No way, i need my crack, woman.”
“And no police, for any reason,” she typed back pretty
“Duh,” I sent back.
There was a longer pause before she texted back. “And do
not get pregnant.”
“OMG, LOL, who are you talking to? when do I get my car?”
“When you come home, k?” she texted pretty quickly.
“I love you, i love you, i love you,” I sent quickly.
I was too excited to go home, so I decided to walk over to dog
beach first. It was the beach where dogs were allowed off leashes
and where I liked to just sit and watch them run free. It smelled
like dog poo constantly, but I didn’t mind.
Walking alone on the beach in the dark probably sounds like
a bad idea for a girl my age, but it was different in this town. The
people in OB were different. Everyone walked, rode a bike, or
was on a skateboard. You would expect to see teenage boys
skateboarding, but in OB, even old ladies with sagging faces
would skateboard right in front of your car. I always felt safe.
Even if I found myself being followed by a tub-of-lard Hell’s Angels
biker guy, I knew he wasn’t at the beach to rape a young girl. In
fact, if I was ever in trouble, he’d be the first guy I’d ask for help.
Not to mention all of the cameras. The whole beach was wired,
broadcasting video to the police department, as well as online. I
wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that my mom was watch-
ing me while I walked to dog beach.
Lost in my memories of the vampire freak and weaving
through the beach crowd, I saw him leaning on the side of the
lifeguard building. He was alone and wore a new black leather
biker jacket over his white shirt. I tucked my hair behind my ear
and kept walking past him. It could have been a coincidence,
but it didn’t feel like it. Even though I was surrounded by tons of
people, it felt like the world only held him and me. I walked along,
close to a small crowd of dirty surfers.
Talk about a nerve-racking night. Being stalked sucked. My
heart was racing, and I couldn’t think of what to do. I thought
about going home, but I didn’t want to. The ocean air and beach
party atmosphere matched my excitement about getting a car,
and he wasn’t going to take that way from me. I got mad instead
of scared. I walked all the way to dog beach, convinced that he
was following me. I didn’t turn to look until I had climbed to the
top of the dog beach concrete ramp. I turned around quickly, com-
pletely convinced was right behind me—but he wasn’t.
“The cops are coming,” a soft, husky voice said behind me,
right in my ear.
My heart skipped a beat and raced even faster. I turned to the
voice, but no one was there. I looked around the parking lot and
found him under a light pole about fifty feet away. He was stand-
ing right under the police camera. I guessed they had seen him
follow me and sent someone. I didn’t need rescuing. And I cer-
tainly didn’t want police doing it. My car was on the line, I hadn’t
eaten right, and I was totally at risk of fainting again.
Flooded with anger, I walked up to Mr. Perfect, totally pre-
pared to tell him off, but he nodded to the parking lot entrance.
The police cruiser was close and headed right for us. Perfect.
“Are you following me?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “More like watching you.”
That was worse. “Could you not watch me?” I asked
“I tried. It didn’t work,” he said, tucking his thick hair behind
his ear.
“Seriously?” I asked.
He looked up at me like he was in pain. His eyes shocked me.
“Are those contacts?” I asked, leaning into his face to get a
closer look.
“No,” he said, smiling.
The short burst of a police siren scared me half to death. A police
car had pulled right up to us. I needed to not have police problems.
I would do anything to not have police problems. My heart started
racing again, and my eyes started leaking. I hated it when they did
that—and they always did it at the worst times. I wasn’t crying, but
if I wiped the water away, everyone thought I was crying.
The police officer in the passenger side leaned his baldhead
out the window and asked for my name.
“Rain Meriwether,” I said, horrified at having to actually speak
to him. I had never, in my whole life, talked to a police officer.
That same police officer looked disapprovingly at me. “Rain
Meriwether is your real name,” he asked.
“Lorraine Prudence Meriwether, sir,” I corrected myself.
“And you?” He turned to my fake vampire freak.
“Harold Godwin, sir.”
The police officer driving the car shined a flashlight right into
Harold’s eyes and then craned his head to look at me. Harold
took his leather jacket off and draped it over my shoulders. It
was, by far, the nicest thing any guy had ever done, and his
jacket smelled just as good as I thought it would. The cops were
watching me closely, so I gladly held the jacket with a smile and
pulled it tight. My leaking eyes got worse, so I tried to covertly
wipe them.
“Okay, Harold Godwin. Identification, please,” the bald officer
“I can’t give you what I don’t have,” Harold said, shrugging his
The officer in the driver’s seat punched something into his
computer while the bald one asked me if I was doing all right.
“Very,” I assured them. I had to get out of this situation, or I’d
lose my car. “He’s walking me home,” I said happily. I don’t know
why I said it. I just didn’t want any trouble.
The two officers suddenly got out of the car and stood on
either side of Harold. “How about we take you downtown and get
some fingerprints to verify your name, Harold Godwin?” They kept
repeating his name sarcastically as if it was a ridiculous name. I
was used to reactions like that for my name, but Harold Godwin
seemed like a reasonable name to me.
I was more shocked about them arresting someone just for
not having identification. I didn’t know the police would do that.
I had left my learner’s permit in the house. My heart pounded
faster and my head was swimming. I had been warned at every
single meeting of the Future Teachers of America that any prob-
lems with the law would not be tolerated. They repeated it so
often that it became a joke. Besides, if they put me in that car,
I wouldn’t even know where to tell them to take me because I
had no idea where my dad’s work was. I supposed I would have
to take them to my mom back in Scripps Ranch, but an hour-
long drive in a police car was more than I could handle. I knew
I would cry real tears the whole way. I didn’t care what my mom
would say. It was what she’d do that terrified me. She could
yell and scream all she wanted. It was the car I was kissing
Harold nodded, raising his hands as if he was surrendering.
“You don’t have to worry about me. I am Harold Godwin,” he said
The two officers stood still for a long moment, and then looked
back at me. “You know him, right?” the bald officer asked me.
I nodded emphatically.
The officers got back in the cruiser and stared at me way too
long before they pulled away, slowly.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I still had a car—and a new
friend. A seriously disturbed, older-than-dirt, but absolutely gor-
geous friend. I shot my most threatening look at him.
He put his hands up and stood back. We both relaxed, smiling
at each other. I took off my flip-flops, stepped onto the sand with his
jacket still wrapped around me, and trudged over to the rock jetty.
“Rain Meriwether?” he asked, following me.
I stopped before the jetty, lowered my head, and turned back
to explain. I yelped like a frightened puppy because he was stand-
ing right next to me with his flip-flops in hand. I would have sworn
he was far behind me when he said my name.
“Yeah, my mother thinks she was this hippy chick, and she
liked the contradiction,” I said, turning back to the black rocks. I
turned around again to explain further, but he was gone. Looking
around, I found him next to the jetty, and I said too loudly, “Do you
get it? Rain is never merry weather.”
I expected him to say something, so when he didn’t, I walked
closer to him until I could see the look on his face. Of course he
knew that—he wasn’t an idiot. I was the idiot. My head dropped
in shame, and I started to take off his jacket. I assumed he’d had
enough of me, but he gently stopped me.
“My real name is Lorraine. I hate it when people call me Rain.”
I stood and just stared at him.
He was the first to break the silence. “You should go to that
house with the lights on.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I had noticed the house on my first
night of summer vacation. It was a constant party house.
He froze, like a statue. “You want to go to the house with the
lights on,” he emphasized slowly.
I laughed. “No, I don’t,” I said. I tucked my hair behind my
ear and turned away from him so he couldn’t see how red I was
He looked puzzled and tried again. “You need to go to that
I looked up to the camera and wondered if they could still see
me out near the jetty. Danger signals were shooting through my
brain. I’d swear he thought he was a Jedi master who could make
people do whatever they wanted with a simple wave of his hand,
which made him an old, fake-fang-wearing, Star Wars freak. Not
a safe combination.
“You do realize that if the Jedi mind trick is going to work, you
need to wave your hand like this.” I waved my hand in his face
and nervously hopped up onto the closest large rock. If he was
going to freak out on me, he would have to maneuver on the huge
jetty rocks that I had been climbing since I was a little girl in pink
I looked down on him, hoping he wasn’t angry at my little
He watched me intently as I climbed further and further out
on the jetty. I swear I saw him panic as two waves crashed high
above me. The rocks got slippery and very jagged the further out
you walked. Over the years, I had walked further and further out
until I finally reached the very end. I used to imagine I was little
fairy and could actually run on the rocks. I wanted to be fairy-like
while he watched me, but I kept slipping.
“Hey! You’ll cut your feet on those rocks,” he shouted. “Come
back here.”
I looked back at him, hating the worry on his face, so I nimbly
leapt like a fairy from rock to rock until I was safely near the beach
and away from the crashing waves. “No, I won’t.” I smiled down
to him, but he still seemed genuinely concerned. “I’ve been walk-
ing on these rocks for years. Besides, I can walk on glass without
cutting my feet,” I said, leaping to the sand.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, laughing as he
reached to help me stand.
I stood up without help, missing the opportunity to touch him.
I could have kicked myself. Smiling nervously, I asked, “Haven’t
you ever seen that on TV? People running on hot coals or on
broken glass without getting hurt?”
“What?” he said, laughing.
The stupid stuff was just flowing out my mouth, so I decided
to just not care. “If I concentrate hard enough, I don’t get cut,” I
said, tilting my head.
“I don’t watch TV,” he said. His insanely beautiful face twisted
with concern. “And you’d get hurt.”
I couldn’t decide if he was concerned about my physical
safety or my mental stability, but I didn’t care much. He obviously
cared—how cool was that?
A cold ocean wave came in and rushed up my leg. I held out
my hand for his help getting away from the water even though I
was already soaked. I don’t know why I did it. I had never done
anything so smooth in my life. He quickly reached to help me,
but as soon as our hands touched, electricity shocked us, hard.
I jerked my hand way, and I would have fallen into the water if
I hadn’t been scooped up in his arms. He didn’t hold me long.
Electricity stung us wherever we touched. He practically tossed
me to my feet. We both shook it off as best we could, laughing
“I saved your jacket,” I proclaimed proudly.
“Thank God. I was worried about the sand hurting it,” he
replied flatly.
I modeled it for him. “No. See. No sand.”
“I was joking,” he said, shaking his head.
I couldn’t have been more horrified at my stupidity. I was trying
to be cute, but it always came out stupid and childish.
I raised my voice without intending to and said, “If you think
I’m so stupid, then quit following me.”
He stepped back the tiniest bit, obviously very angry. Now I
had made a Star Wars Jedi master freak with fake fangs angry
while walking with him—basically alone—on a dark beach. My
stupidity knew no bounds.
He took a deep breath and slowly said, “You told the police
I was walking you home, so I am walking you home.” He turned
formally and indicated that I should start walking.
I hesitated. “I only said that to keep you out of trouble.” I didn’t
need his protection to walk the beaches in OB, but I didn’t want
to give his jacket back. I walked, obediently, next to him on the
side closest to the crashing waves. I tripped several times trying
to avoid the cold water, falling right into him each and every time.
Yeah, it looked like I was drunken idiot, but I just didn’t care. He
caught me the first time I tripped, but we shocked each other
again. After that, he expertly dodged me. He looked more like an
idiot than I did. It was the most fun I had actually ever had. We
stopped at one point, but we ended up laughing about walking
When we neared the lifeguard station, he asked, “Why did you
care if I got in trouble with the police?”
I didn’t answer him. The truth was that I was a stupid little girl
who would do anything to keep the attention of a guy who looked
as good as he did. Girls are basically stupid around hot guys, no matter the age difference. I decided not to admit that out loud, but
the whole story of my car would only end in more embarrassment.
I had no good answer. I wanted to say that I wasn’t alone and
that seemed far more important than any other truth I might have
admitted. I ended up only smiling.
Harold accepted my silence, so we walked up to the sidewalk
at the lifeguard building.
I stopped in midstride and turned to him. “Can I ask you a
question?” I was turning red, but the orange glow of the streetlight
hid it.
He stopped and smiled. He was so much the American Eagle
model standing in front of the lifeguard station. I could totally
see the scene plastered in a store window. Way, way out of my
league. But I figured he was talking to me, so I was going to keep
it going as long as I could.
“Do I have to answer?” he asked with a smile.
“I’ve been skipping my Jedi mind-trick classes, so, no, you
don’t,” I said, waving my hand in his face.
He cringed.
I stopped. “Sorry. I was just wondering how old you are.”
Harold’s mood changed instantly. He put his hands in his jean
pockets and frowned. “Guess,” he said.
We walked while I thought about it. I had nothing to base
a guess on, other than the fact that he liked Goth whores, Star
Wars, and paid for quality fake fangs.
As we walked under the pier, I guessed seriously and said,
“No,” he smiled.
“Older?” I hoped not with all my heart.
He smiled. “Yes, much.”
“Forty, then?”
He put his head down, stretched his arms straight down with
his hands still in his pockets, and smiled so big he could hardly
talk. “My last marked birthday had me at forty-three.”
I laughed. “You talk funny.” Again with the stupidity. He just
When we reached my dad’s apartment building, Harold
looked up at the three-story, aging white building in disbelief. “You
live in that?”
“It’s called the Silver Spray,” I said proudly.
“It must have a story,” he said, honestly curious.
“It was a resort hotel in the 1920s. My dad rents the only suite.
The rest are mostly studio apartments. He says there are at least
a hundred layers of lead paint, so I am under strict instructions
not to lick the window sills.” I would have reached down my throat
and pulled all of that stupid stuff back if I could.
He smiled at my embarrassment. “Can you lick the doors?”
I smiled and said, “It’s creepy, but I like it.”
“You like creepy?” he asked, teasing me. His voice was
“Well, not like Goth creepy.” In fact, I was quite sure all things
Goth were repulsive after watching that disgusting girl in his arms.
“I like old spooky stuff.”
He leaned on the white wall with a huge smile. “My turn to ask
a question.”
I poked my watch out of his jacket. I had a ton of time before
my dad would be home. He gave me my very own set of keys to
the apartment with a cute little pelican keychain and said I had to
be home every night before ten. It wasn’t even eight yet.
“I have time,” I said nonchalantly.
“How old are you?” he asked.
OMG. He wanted to know something about me. I didn’t even
know what acting cool was anymore. “Guess,” I said, trying to
mimic him.
He made a face like thinking was hurting him. “You had your
sweet sixteen birthday party a few months ago and it was filled with
boys just hoping you’d dance with them,” he rattled off quickly.
Dancing? At a birthday party? He completely thought I was
an idiot. I took his jacket off and handed it regretfully back to him.
“Far from it,” I sighed.
He wouldn’t take it. “Older?”
“You are not serious.” I didn’t appreciate feeling like an idiot
“You are not fourteen.”
I had to stop him. “Fifteen, last August.”
He smiled the sweetest smile I had ever seen.
I turned to climb the steep stairs to the main entrance of my
apartment building before he could see how happy his smile made me. OMG, I was being seduced by a forty-three-year-old
freak, and I was liking it. Stupid and sick.
He followed me all the way up and watched me unlock the
front door of the building.
“Good night,” he said. He made absolutely no move for his
jacket, so I just nodded, smiled, and went in the building with the
jacket still wrapped around me.
I smiled as I walked down the freakishly long hallway to the
last door, then I smiled as I opened it. I walked in a daze through
the long living room and into my room. I stopped and looked
around. My bedroom felt odd, but it was just the way I had left it.
It seemed like a little girl’s room now: boxer puppy poster, hot pink
quilt, and little-girl computer desk. My dad had bought me a new
white dresser, which was absolutely wonderful because my stuff
didn’t fit into the old one. During ninth grade, my five feet, four
inches had curved into a shape that required all new clothes, and
my wardrobe was in no way a little girl’s wardrobe. Little girl or
not, I had just spent a glorious evening with Harold Godwin, and
I still had his jacket. My mind conveniently left out the old man,
Jedi master, fake fangs, stalking me parts.
I was still smiling.