Chapter Twenty-Three: Soft Lips

He’d never felt so jittery. All morning was spent checking and re-checking his outfit, his hair. He’d been washing with that face shit Mom had made him buy. It had done something. Not enough though. The right side of his face was streaked with zits. The red ones weren’t so bad. It was the white ones he hated. Two on his upper lip, puss-filled little globes. He tried popping them. He knew he wasn’t supposed to. He couldn’t go on a date with those fuckers right about his mouth though. Looking like herpes or some shit. He squeezed both until the white liquid had drained from his face. The bigger of the two bled and he dabbed at it with a wad of toilet paper. Fucking thing was filled back up with pus again twenty minutes later.

He scowled at himself in the mirror. What an ugly fuck.

His hair wasn’t cooperating either. He hadn’t had a problem since getting it cut. Of course today would be the first time his hair refused to stick up on top the way it was supposed to. With the sides of his head shaved so close, the haircut only worked if it was curly on top. It wasn’t. It stuck flat to his head. On the left it was completely flat, save for the very ends where it curled up. He tried everything to get it looking decent. He even stole his mom’s hairdryer and round hairbrush. He didn’t know what the round hairbrush was supposed to do, but he tried using it with the hairdryer to get his hair curly on the top of his head. Nothing. No matter what he did, his fucking ginger hair fought him. It was hopeless. The universe had decided he was going to look like shit today. In the end, he grabbed a hat from Chuck’s room and mashed it onto his head. That was the best he could do.

Chuck passed him in the hallway and gave him a smirk. “Looking sharp, romeo. Were you gonna ask if you could borrow that?”

“My hair is fucked today,” Adam snapped. “What else am I gonna do?”

Chuck raised his eyebrows, the corner of his mouth flickered. “Maybe not go on a date with a Pepe the frog meme on your head.”

“What?” Adam snatched the hat off his head and flipped it around. “Oh, what the fuck!” He waved the hat at Chuck. “Gimme a normal hat, Chuck.”

“Yeah,” Chuck laughed. “You probably don’t want one that screams ‘I use 4chan.’

“I don’t use 4chan. What else do you have? I’m gonna be late.”

“Calm your tits, I got one that’s plain.”

Adam followed Chuck back to his bedroom, where Chuck retrieved a black hat from the closet. “Where did you even get that?” Adam asked.

Chuck shrugged. “I don’t remember. Anime Boston, maybe? They had a booth full of meme shit. But Mark and me also went to a couple other conventions last year.” Chuck waved his hand. “Eh, I bought too much shit to remember where I got what. I waste too much money.”

Adam rammed the hat onto his head. “Well, thanks. See ya.”

“Good luck, player.”

Adam rolled his eyes and hustled from the house. He barely paused to wave at his dad, comatose in front of the television as usual.

He used google maps to reach her rural address. It sent him down 101 and then up the bypass. When he reached the end of the short, two-lane bypass, he was at a set of traffic lights. To the right would send him to Milford, to the left Peterborough, but straight through led to Lyndeborough. It was all farms and dirt roads. Thank fuck it was September. Adam didn’t even know if his shitty Jetta could make it up that mountain in winter.

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It was 10:35 and he was supposed to pick Becca up at 11. He had enough time…he hoped..

Twenty minutes later, Adam was cursing up a storm and on the verge of punching the steering wheel. He’d driven past one cow farm, two apple farms, and passed a dude on a fucking tractor chugging about five miles down the road. He couldn’t tell if he was still going in the right direction. His car was steadily climbing the mountain and the higher he got, the spottier his cell phone reception became. Before it had frozen, it had said he had another six miles to go on this road. Then he’d be turning onto Cemetery Road. That was where Becca lived. So, if he just kept an eye out for Cemetery Road, he should be in the clear.

But at 11:15 he was still driving. He hadn’t seen any road on the left. It was all trees. She really lived out in the middle of nowhere. Shit. He had an actual date and he was late. Out-fucking-standing. He rounded a bend and saw an old woman walking along the side of the road. She power-walked along with one small weight in each hand. He slowed to a stop and rolled his window down. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

She turned around and wiped some sweat off her face. Old gal was really getting her work out on. “Yes?”

“Sorry to bother you. I’m just a little lost. Do you happen to know where Cemetery Road is?”

“Oh, sure. It’s not too far.” She pointed in the direction from which he’d come. “Only five minutes back that way.”

Adam frowned. “See, that’s the thing. I was looking really carefully for it the whole way. I didn’t see it.”

The woman chuckled. “Oh, it’s easy to miss for sure. It’s a teeny little opening. Dirt road.”

Dirt road?”

“That’s right.” Her eyes roamed skeptically over his small car. “You sure your tires can handle that?”

“Here’s hoping.”

Ten minutes later his car was bouncing down a horribly bumpy dirt road. Adam winced as the front wheel slammed down into a massive hole. By the time he found Becca’s house, he was seriously starting to worry about the car’s suspension. He really didn’t have the money for car repairs right now.

Becca’s driveway was huge. At least half a mile long. The pavement was lined with trees on either side, until finally, the trees parted and the car was within a large private cul-de-sac. There stood a massive house to the left. On the right, more trees, and straight ahead, only about fifteen yards from the edge of the pavement, a cliff. A fucking cliff. He couldn’t see how far the drop was from here. All he could see was that there was a drop. Must be some view from inside the house though.

Adam shut the car of, but before he’d even stepped all the way out from the vehicle, the front door had been flung open and smiling pale face was running down the stone walkway. Adam swallowed. Okay. Don’t be weird. Don’t be fucking weird.

Becca hopped lithely from the walkway down to the driveway and jogged over to him, smiling.

“Hi, uh, sorry I’m late, I-”

His breath caught short as small arms flung around his neck. She wasn’t much shorter than him, but he still had to bend down just a little to return the hug. His heart pounded. She smelled so nice.

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Finally, she pulled back and gave him a bright smile. “It’s okay,” she chirped. “Everybody gets lost trying to find this place.”

“I’ll bet.” Adam gave a forced laugh. “Um, yeah, let’s…let’s get…going…okay.”

He sounded like a moron. A fucking idiot. She was gonna think he was socially-retarded.

With a dry mouth and wet palms, he skittered around the back of the car and opened the passenger side door.

Becca stared at him.

He smiled nervously and gestured to the open door.

Recognition dawned over Becca’s pretty features. “Oh!” she gasped. “Wow,” she giggled, skipping around to the passenger side and sliding in. “What a gentleman.” She blinked up at him.

Adam tried to think of something to say that didn’t sound idiotic. He couldn’t think of anything. He swallowed again. His mouth was so dry. He shut her car door and took those few seconds of walking around to his side to calm his breathing. Just a chick. She’s just a girl. Don’t be such a fucking sperg.

In the car, he turned to her with a shaking smile. “So…” he laughed tightly. “You live out in the boonies, huh?”

Becca frowned and nodded. “Unfortunately. I moved in with my grandparents last year. I lived in New York before this.”

“T-That’s a big change.”

“Yeah. I don’t like living out here much.”

“Sorry.”

They stared at each other.

She gave him a reassuring smile. “What are we doing anyway?”

“I figured we’d go down to that ice cream stand in Milford. You know it?”

“Oh yeah. Josh took me there last week.”

His heart stopped.

“Josh?”

“You know him, right? He works at Wal-Mart too.”

Something that was almost nausea ebbed like a rising tide.

“We’ll do something else,” he said flatly.

The corner of her mouth twitched. Was she trying to make him jealous? Fuck that. Adam wasn’t about to play that game.

“You hungry?” he asked. Already he was regretting this. She’d been on a date with Josh and wanted him to know about it. She’d probably stuff her face and then banish him to the friend-zone.

But to his relief, she replied, “Not really hungry. We could just go somewhere and chill if you want. Unless you’re hungry.”

“No, I’m good. I know a cool place actually. You been to the waterfall in Mount Vernon?”

She shook her head.

Adam did a three-point turn and drove back in the direction of the main road.

“You’re a good driver,” Becca said in a low voice. “Better than me.”

“Bet you’re fine.”

“No, I failed my driver’s test four times.”

Adam laughed. “Four times? You’re kidding.” He glanced over at her.

She smiled. She looked so pretty with all that dark eyeliner around her hazel eyes.

“I took twice in Keene and twice in Milford, and you want to know what?”

“What?”

“It was the same cop all four times! At two different locations. What do you think the odds of that are?”

“I don’t know,” Adam chuckled.

He drove back down the winding road that would bring them down the mountain. For a moment, there was a comfortable silence between them.

“You’re kind of different outside of work,” Adam blurted. He regretted his words the moment he’d said them, sure that he was gonna piss her off.

To his relief, she only laughed. “I know. Social anxiety. I get weird in big groups of people. I’m always shy any place I work. One-on-one I’m okay though. Everybody says once you get to know me I don’t shut up.”

“Ah, I’m sure you’re fine.”

A feminine squeal made him start.

“What?” he shouted, almost slamming on the brakes.

She had flipped down the CD visor in front of the passenger seat. She pointed excitedly to the Metallica and Ozzy CDs displayed in front of her. “You’re a metal-head!” she exclaimed. “My dad took me to Ozzfest when I was fifteen.”

He grinned. “No way. I always wanted to go to Ozzfest. Or any concert actually.”

“You’ve never been?”

“No,” he sighed. “Well, almost. I went to Soulfest with one of my friends in high school.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a Christian music festival.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “Not exactly Ozzfest. So was it fun? That’s kind’ve weird you went with your dad, isn’t it?”

“He’s a metal-head,” she explained. “He got me into all of my favorite bands.”

“Doesn’t sound like an average dad.”

“He isn’t,” she said. “He’s a metal-head, a gamer. He’s the one who got me into World of Warcraft. Do you play?”

“Yeah, I love that game.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. Adam had played WOW. He’d never been a fanatic for it, like Chuck had been for a good stretch. It was okay as far as MMOs went though.

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They spent the remainder of the ride talking about video games and metal music. Fuck. A pretty girl who liked metal and video games. He couldn’t give a shit that quirky gamer gorl was such a meme. Who wanted a girl who had hobbies like….he didn’t even know. Instagram? Doing their makeup?

He parked the car on the side of the road and pointed to the entry to the trail that led to the waterfall.

“It’s not far, it’s only-”

And he never finished his sentence. He never finished because a pair of soft lips were on his, and a pair of small hands pushing into his chest.

Her lips grazed over his. Soft, warm. The smell from her perfume made him dizzy.

Fuck.”

And that was all that he was able to say before her tongue slid over his. He held her by the shoulders and melted into a pool of emotions and sensations.

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