“I have an awkward question,” I start, and I almost immediately regret saying anything at all when Zade grins slyly at me. He probably thinks I’m going to ask him to do something weird.
This will be the first time I’m planning on leaving the property since I’ve been home, and my anxiety is high. It’s been a little over a week since I had talked about my mom with Zade, and it made me feel… better. Enough to get up every day, shower, take walks to the cliff, get some fresh air, and just… live.
I think I’ve reached the point where I need to feel human again, but there’s been one nagging concern in my head that’s keeping me from feeling that.
“Can… Would you mind driving me to the clinic?”
Usually, I’d drive myself, but the thought of getting behind the wheel again makes me break out in hives. My car was totaled in the accident, and even though Zade bought me a new one, I can hardly get in it without having an anxiety attack. Plus, it’s missing the ketchup stain on the roof, and I miss that stain. I still don’t remember where it came from, but I’m pretty sure it was from a fly-away French fry after I hit a speed bump too hard.
So anyway, I decided Zade taking me would cause more annoyance, but less panic.
His face relaxes, and I think he knows what I’m asking.
“Sure, baby,” he agrees, nodding toward the door. “I’ll be in the car.”
He stands, then pauses and looks at me. “And by the way, nothing is awkward between us. If you need me to pluck a butthole hair, I’ll do it.” He shrugs, “Or you know, pop an ingrown hair on your vagina.”
My mouth drops open, but then my eyes narrow, and I cross my arms.
“How much shit did you watch me do when you were being a little creep?”
His grin only widens in response before he walks out of the door.
I swear I hate him.
But I’m thankful that he’s not asking questions. How does one say, hey, I want to get tested for STDs because I had a bunch of dicks in me without at least one person feeling uncomfortable? Doesn’t really come out right, no matter how you word it.
I will forever be thankful for Francesca forcing Rocco and his friends to use condoms, aside from the first time Rocco assaulted me. She said we would be worthless if they gave us diseases. But it was useless anyway— they certainly didn’t use condoms when they forced us to perform oral. I think it just made Francesca feel like she was being responsible.
According to Rio, there was an incident long before I arrived, where one of the guys gave all the girls syphilis. Since then, Francesca has been diligent about them getting tested if they wanted to partake in our ‘lessons,’ but I wouldn’t trust any of them to actually keep their dicks clean.
Xavier used condoms, too, but there was one occurrence when the condom broke. I bite my lip, anxiety flaring just thinking about that minuscule chance that I got knocked up anyway, despite that I have the IUD. It’s improbable, but not impossible.
My heart drops, picturing the disgusted look on Zade’s face when finding out that I’m pregnant with another man’s baby.
I know him well enough by now that I’m confident he wouldn’t actually give me that look, but that image plagues me anyway.
I wouldn’t blame him if he did. That disgust is what I feel every time I stare in the mirror. Which is why I tend to avoid it at all costs.
I’m getting a pregnancy test, and if I did get that unlucky, I’m throwing myself off the building next.
I’ve been out of the house for a total of two hours and forty-seven minutes, and I’m fucking exhausted. I’m still riddled with anxiety, nauseated by the possibility that I’m as filthy as I feel.
“You look like you need ice cream,” Zade announces, his palm flat on the steering wheel as he makes a left turn. It’s… hot. Watching Zade drive
Even worse, he’s wearing a leather jacket over his hoodie today, and I still haven’t been able to unstick my tongue from the roof of my mouth.
I blink, the loss of blood making me a little woozy. I told the doctor to test me for every STD known to man—especially herpes since that’s one of the scarier and mostly silent ones—and I lost count of how many tubes of blood she drew. She stared at the barcode on my wrist almost the entire time, and after the gauze stemmed the bleeding, she slapped a Band-Aid with smiley faces on my arm. I laughed, then cried when the pregnancy test came back negative.
“Ice cream?” I echo dumbly. “Do you like ice cream?”
“I—well, yes,” I stutter, my brain slow to catch up with the randomness. “What’s your favorite flavor?”
“Mint chocolate,” I answer, watching him make another turn. He’s heading in the opposite direction of Parsons now, and I think he’s aiming for Lick n’ Crunch a few blocks away—a mom-and-pop shop that sells the best soft-serve ice cream in Seattle.
The thought of getting ice cream with Zade is so normal and mundane that it feels like the most exciting thing to happen since sliced bread. And watching Zade lick an ice cream cone will probably be just as weird as it will be hot.
I sigh. “Et tu, Brute? It’s not toothpaste. They taste nothing alike.”
A grin tips up one side of Zade’s mouth, and his eyes glitter as he pulls into the parking lot. The bastard of a man is just trying to get a rise out of me.
“It’s toothpaste,” he reaffirms, though I’m not sure if he actually believes that. He looks too damn mischievous, but I can’t help arguing anyway.
I unbuckle and swivel toward him, my eyes thinning.
“Mint is a delicacy, and you’re just a simpleton incapable of appreciating it.”
He laughs outright, putting the car in park. Mint is definitely not a delicacy—quite the opposite, actually—but I’m sticking with it.
“Are you saying I need to refine my food palette?” “Obviously,” I answer dryly.
He leans in close, the leather groaning beneath his weight, and my breath hitches, all my senses invaded by the pure intensity that shrouds this man. His scent envelopes me, causing me to stiffen as his lips scarcely brush the side of my jaw.
“Your pussy is a delicacy, baby, and I could eat it forever and never grow tired of the taste of you. Is that refined enough?”
A flush crawls up my neck, burning a path to my cheeks, while my mouth opens in shock. I’m entirely embarrassed by the traitorous squeak that breaks free from my throat, only causing my cheeks to grow hotter. He chuckles, then he’s out of the car in the next blink. I glance around, trying to locate where my heart fell out of my ass.
Surely that’s the only explanation of why I feel so empty now that he’s gone. Or the asshole took it with him.
That’s definitely what happened.
Daylight savings is approaching, relieving the world of its depressive claws. Something about the sun setting before five in the afternoon really puts a damper on your day.
It’s still cold outside, yet we’re sitting on a bench outside of Lick n’ Crunch, people-watching and shivering my ass off while I slowly eat my dessert.
Zade got a mint chocolate chip cone for himself, and he smiled wider than the damn Cheshire Cat when I just stared at him.
“My entire world revolves around you. If you want mint chocolate chip, then that’s what I want, too,” he had said.
“Do you even like it?”
“I like you, does that count?” “No.”
He just went and sat down, a satisfied look on his face as he lapped up the sweet cream. He doesn’t appear disgusted, and I admit that I’ve spent
half of my time trying to figure out if he’s fucking with me or if he truly does like the flavor.
I still haven’t figured that out.
Shooting him a narrow-eyed look when he catches me staring and winks, I turn away before he can see the smile threatening to curl my lips.
People are bundled up in their coats, bustling down the street and in and out of shops.
My attention snags on a person walking down the road. They have masculine features and are dressed in a big poofy purple dress. Then I do smile. My mother would turn her nose up at the eccentrics in Seattle, but I’ve always admired their confidence and ability to be comfortable with who they are.
“I hope they’re happy,” I murmur. When Zade looks at me curiously, I nod towards the individual in the purple dress. “This world can be so cruel. So, I hope they’re happy.”
Zade is quiet for a beat. “Happiness is fleeting. All that matters is that they’re living their life the way they want to.”
“You believe that?” I ask, facing him. “That happiness is fleeting?”
He shrugs, tossing the last bite of his cone into his mouth, and chews as he contemplates something.
“Absolutely,” he says finally. “It’s not something solid you can hold on to. It’s vapor in the wind, and all you can do is inhale it when it’s near and hope it comes around again when it blows away.”
I nod, having to agree with that.
Shivering, I eat the last of my cone, the icy breeze stirring up my hair, sending the tendrils dancing. Zade catches them and gathers my hair until it’s lying straight down my back. I can’t help but tense, though I don’t stop him from whatever he’s doing. He removes his leather jacket and wraps it around me, trapping my flyaway hair beneath the heavy warmth.
“Thank you,” I whisper, bundling further into the jacket, overcome with emotion for a reason I can’t explain. His jacket smells of leather, spice, and a hint of smoke, and as I inhale his comforting scent, tears burn the backs of my eyes.
Maybe because this is the best I’ve felt in so long, and that kind of makes me want to cry.
He gives me a soft smile, his mismatched orbs bright. Even the scar slashing down his white eye can’t take away from how at peace he looks right now.
“You’re welcome, baby.”
My heart thuds, and I finally recognize why I feel so emotional.
Turning back to watch the city, I lean my head on his shoulder and inhale deeply.
This happiness may be fleeting, but I’ve never been surer that it’ll be back