Authors: Lauren Barnholdt
To: Lyla McAfee ([email protected])
From: Lyla McAfee ([email protected])
Before graduation, I will . . .
learn to trust
I forgot about that stupid email a week after I sent it, and honestly, I haven't thought about it since. I mean, who even writes something like that? Before graduation, I will learn to trust? That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life.
Why didn't I write something a little more . . . I don't know, succinct? You know, something a little more . . . definitive. Like, before graduation I'll go skydiving. Or before graduation I'll lose my virginity. Not that losing your virginity is something you should do just to get it over with. It's not like flossing your teeth or getting a school physical.
Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I
have written that. I mean, I was only fourteen and a freshman when Quinn, Aven, and I wrote those emails to ourselves and scheduled them to be sent right before our high school graduation. The three of us were in a very sort of emo phase back then. So we went to the beach and started a bonfire and got all morose and spiritual and decided to each write one thing we wanted to accomplish before graduation.
Looking back, the whole thing seems ludicrous.
Of course I know how to trust.
I definitely should have written about losing my virginity.
I mean, it would make sense, since that's the one I'm going to be working on this weekend.
I stare at the email that's appeared on the screen of my phone and then shove it back into my bag. I have bigger things to think about than some dumb email I sent four years ago. Mainly, the fact that I'm late. (Not
kind of late. Have to have sex for that to happen, ha-ha.) Late for my senior trip to Florida. Actually, late for the bus that's supposed to take my class to the airport.
It's extremely upsetting. A, because I'm never late to anything; B, because this trip is super important to me (see the aforementioned hint about losing my virginity); and C, because if I miss the flight, there's, like, no way to take a later one.
It said it right on the informational packet they sent out: “ANY STUDENT MISSING THE FLIGHT WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO MEET UP WITH THE GROUP LATER AND WILL NOT BE REFUNDED THEIR TRIP FEE.”
Lots of times they do things like that just for a scare tactic, but I was pretty sure they meant it this time. They already had almost two hundred kids going to Floridaâthey didn't need to be saddled with additional flights and people showing up late.
“Can't you go a little bit faster?” I ask my mom, shifting in the passenger seat of her Jeep.
She's driving me crazy. No pun intended.
“I'm going the speed limit,” my mom says, raising her hand slightly to check the speedometer. Obviously she doesn't get that the speed limit isn't really the top limit of how fast you can go. You can go five miles over without having to worry about being pulled over. It's, like, a fact.
“If I don't make the bus, I can't make the flight,” I say. The paper was very clear about that, too. You can't just show up at the airport by yourself and expect to meet up with everyone. You need to ride the bus over. It's some kind of liability thing. “And if I don't make the flight, then I can't get my money back. None of it. Not even, like, a percentage.”
She frowns and looks down at the speedometer again. A second later, the needle moves so she's going two miles
over the speed limit. I sigh. My mom has always been kind of . . . scattered. Like this morning, for example. It took her fifteen minutes to make one cup of coffeeâshe kept getting distracted by all kinds of ridiculous things. And then when we got into the car, she took out her wallet and started pulling out pictures of me and babbling about how she couldn't believe her baby was going on a senior trip to Florida, and didn't time fly and she remembered my first day of school and how scared I was and blah blah blah. (Who keeps pictures in their wallet anymore, anyway? She definitely might have ADHD. Like, for sure. She's been reading tons of self-help books lately about taking control of your lifeâ
The Five-Minute Manager! Take Control of Your Time! You Are Not Your Distractions!
âbut I'm starting to think she might be better off with an Adderall prescription.)
I watch as the digital clock in the car inches forward.
6:58. 6:59. We're supposed to be there by seven o'clock. At 7:02 we hit a red light so long I have to bite my lip to keep from screaming.
When we finally pull into the school parking lot, there's no bus.
The bus is gone.
“The bus is gone!” I screech.
I pull my phone out and look for a text from Derrick. Derrick is my boyfriend. The one I'll be losing my virginity to this weekend. He would have texted me if the bus was
about to leave. He's very good about things like that. But there's nothing. No text. No warning.
Is it possible I have the time wrong? Maybe the bus is going to leave at eight, and I'm actually an hour early! I ruffle through the informational packet I brought with me, but it says “SEVEN A.M.” in big capital letters. Great. Just great. Am I going to miss the trip? I can't miss the trip. This trip is important! I've been looking forward to it all year.
My mom, obviously in denial, keeps driving toward the school. She definitely doesn't get it yet. As the car gets closer to the front circle, I see someone standing on the sidewalk, right where the bus should be. Derrick! He probably waited for me! He probably decided that if I wasn't going to Florida, then he wasn't going either. I wonder if he had some sixth sense about me losing my virginity to him this weekend. (I swear he saw an article up on my phone about whether it's supposed to hurt. Talk about embarrassing.) And that's the only reason he even wanted to go on this trip. The thought is both despicable and thrilling at the same time.
I feel flushed. My whole body is on fire thinking about it. Of course, now we're not going to be going on the trip because we've missed the bus. But perhaps it's for the best. Maybe I can convince my mom that we're going anyway, and then Derrick and I can get a room somewhere and spend the weekend just . . . doing it. I heard it gets better the more you do it, and there's no way we'd be able to have a lot of sex in Florida. There
are going to be teachers everywhere. And sex is one of the things they're definitely going to be on the lookout for. That and inappropriate swimwear. It was all over the informational packet, a bunch of warnings about inappropriate swimwear. I don't know why they think inappropriate bathing suits are going to be the thing that leads to our demise. All the bathing suits I packed are extremely appropriate (wellâexcept one), and all I can think about is howâ
That's not Derrick.
The guy standing by the traffic circle. It's not Derrick.
“Where's the bus?” my mom asks as she stops the car, like I hadn't just told her it was gone. She does that sometimesâtunes me out when she's distracted and/or thinks I'm being dramatic.
“Obviously gone,” I huff. I'm texting Derrick now, trying to figure out how far away the bus has gotten. Maybe I can catch up with it somewhere. Like if it stops at a red light or something, I can just run up to it and get on. Of course, that will be horribly embarrassing. Probably everyone will be looking.
Where r u?
I missed the bus
I hit send at the exact moment someone knocks on my window.
I scream and drop my phone.
It's Beckett Cross. He must have been the one standing on the sidewalk.
He gives me a smile and then motions for me to roll down the window.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hi.” I don't know Beckett. He's been in a few of my classes, but he doesn't really say much. But in sort of a cool way. Like, he's not quiet or insecure or anything like that. He's also not really in the popular crowd, although he has some popular friends.
“We missed the bus,” he says. His voice is cool, calm, like he couldn't care less about missing the trip. Probably he doesn't. Why would he? He's not the one who's made the decision to lose his virginity. I'm sure Beckett's virginity is long gone, and any sex he was going to have on this trip can be replaced locally with whatever random underclassmen are always following him around the halls like lovesick puppies. Not that I blame them. Beckett is very good-looking.
“I know,” I say. “Do you know how long ago it left?”
“No.” He shrugs. Obviously he doesn't realize how important this trip is.
“That's okay,” I say nonchalantly. “There's a late bus.” The lie is out of my mouth before I realize what I'm even saying. There is no late bus. I don't even know why I'm saying it.
“A late bus?” Beckett frowns.
“Yeah. It should be here in about ten minutes. It's just, you know, a stopgap in case anyone misses the bus.”
My mom sighs loudly. “Lyla, why didn't you tell me there was a late bus? I was speeding to get here.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. I can't be spending too much energy on my mom's delusional idea that she was speeding when she so obviously wasn't. I have bigger problems, i.e., figuring out how I'm going to get to the airport so I can go on this trip.
Beckett stoops down and leans in so that he can see my mom. “Hello,” he says amicably. “I'm Beckett.”
“Hello,” my mom says. “I'm sorry we missed the bus.”
“No problem,” Beckett says, like he's a teacher who's in charge of everything instead of just another student who's in the same situation as I am. He shoots my mom a smile, then straightens up and opens my door for me, like he's a chauffeur. I'm not sure what to do, so I just get out.
He's standing on the curb, and he doesn't step back or anything, so I have no choice but to step up onto the curb next to him. My back is against the car, and I'm so close I can see the chocolate-brown specks in his green eyes. It feels weird being this close to someone other than Derrick. The side of Beckett's mouth turns up into a grin, almost like he can sense my discomfort. I wait for him to move and let me pass, but he doesn't. He just stands there, like he owns the sidewalk.
He smells like strawberry gum and spicy aftershave. I flush and maneuver around him toward the back of the car, where I wait for my mom to hit the release button for the back door. I pull out my carry-on. It's one of those rolling ones, and it's packed to the brim with stuff. Fortunately, the bags we were checking had to be left at the school yesterday, so they could load them all onto the bus. They didn't want to waste time doing it this morning. At the time I thought it was a huge pain in the ass, but now I'm thankful. If I can somehow get to Florida, at least my suitcase will be there.
“All right, well, see you later,” my mom calls out her window.
“You're leaving?” The thought is suddenly panic-inducing. What the hell am I thinking, lying about there being a late bus? How am I going to get to the airport? And besides, I don't want to be left here alone with Beckett. I don't even know him. He's one of those people who you never know what they're going to do or say. He's unpredictable. I don't like things that are unpredictable. Which is obviously why I've
to lose my virginity.
“I have to get to work,” my mom says. “Text me when you get on the bus.”
“We'll be fine,” Beckett says. “I'll make sure she texts you, don't worry.”
My mom smiles at him, like Beckett's in charge of her
life or something and not just some kid she met, like, five minutes ago.
“Bye, Lyla!” she calls. She blows me a kiss out the window. And then she's gone.
Beckett picks up my carry-on and starts wheeling it back over toward the traffic circle. “Wow,” he says. “This is heavy.”
“It's not that heavy,” I say, rolling my eyes.
He gives me a weird look and keeps walking. He has long legs, and his strides are long on top of it. He's wearing baggy jeans, a crisp white T-shirt, and clean black sneakers. His hair is disheveled in that I-don't-care-what-my-hair-looks-like-but-I-still-look-sexy kind of way. Not that I think Beckett's sexy. I mean, yes, abstractly I can tell he's good-looking. But I have a boyfriend.
“What do you have in here, anyway?” he asks, like he really wants to know.
“Just the normal stuff.” Makeup, a couple of dresses, a book, my inappropriate bathing suit (just in case they decided to go through the bags we were checkingâthey said they weren't, but who knows? There's really no privacy when it comes to schools.).
Beckett looks at me out of the corner of his eye, like he thinks I'm up to something. What could I be up to with a suitcase? Maybe he thinks I'm a drug smuggler.
“I can wheel my own suitcase,” I say.
He ignores me and just keeps walking back toward the
front of the school, where he was standing when we first pulled in.
There's a small black duffel bag sitting on the curb, and he sets my bag down gently next to his. He looks at my bag, like he's trying to figure out a puzzle. He reaches out and grabs the tag with my name and address on it, running his finger over the pink marker I used to print the information.
“You like pink,” he says, like there's something wrong with it.
“It was the only pen I had.” It's a lie. I love pink. But something is making me feel like I have to defend my color choice to him, which is ridiculous. I hardly know him. This is why high school is completely messed up and misogynistic. If it were two guys out here, would Beckett really be commenting on the color of the ink on my name tag? Well, maybe. If it were pink, he might say something.
But whatever. The point is that if it were a guy, I wouldn't have felt the need to defend myself and lie about my choices. I should just tell him I like pink. There's nothing
with liking the color pink. It doesn't mean anything. I'm a very strong woman. I have a 4.0 GPA, I take three AP classes (which Beckett should know, since he's in two of them), and I'm going to Cornell in the fall. With Derrick. We're both going to Cornell. Isn't that so perfect?