“Yep,” I said, “just a summer boyfriend. No worries. No entanglements. Just the way I like it. I mean, it’s not like Dexter’s husband material or anything. He can’t even keep his shoes tied.”
I laughed again. God, this was so true. So true. What had I been thinking?
We stood there for a second, in a silence that was not exactly awkward but not altogether comfortable either.
She looked at her watch, then behind me, into the crowd. She seemed surprised for a second, and I figured John Miller must have given her another one of his hold-on-honey-I’m-almost-done-here waves. “Look,” she said, “I really have to go, or my sitter’s going to kill me. Can you tell John Miller I’ll see him tomorrow?”
“Sure,” I told her. “No problem.”
“Thanks, Remy. Take care, okay?”
I watched her walk to the door, then cut out quickly just as John Miller turned his head, looking over at us again. Too late, I thought. I scared her off. Big, bad Remy, cold bitch, was back.
“Now,” Jess said, appearing next to me, “it has got to be time to go.”
“I’m in,” Chloe said, plopping down beside me. “No decent prospects here.”
“Lissa’s doing okay,” Jess told her.
Chloe bent forward, peering down the bar. “That’s the first guy that spoke to her when she got here, so yes, we should go. If we don’t she’ll be engaged to him by last call. Lissa!”
Lissa jumped. “Yes?”
“We’re going!” Chloe slid off the stool, pulling me with her. “There’s got to be something better to do tonight. Got to be.”
“You guys,” Lissa said as she came up, fluffing her hair, “I’m talking to somebody.”
“He’s subpar,” Chloe told her, glancing at him again. He waved and smiled, poor guy. “You can do better.”
“But he’s nice,” Lissa protested. “I’ve been talking to him all night.”
“Exactly,” Jess said. “You need a variety of guys, not just one. Right, Remy?”
“Right,” I agreed. “Let’s go already.”
We were almost to the door when I saw Jonathan. He was standing by the jukebox, talking to the bouncer. I’d seen him from a distance a few times since we’d broken up, but this was the first official drive-by, so I slowed down.
“Hey Remy,” he said as we passed, reaching out, in typical fashion, to brush my arm. Normally I would have sidestepped, out of range, but this time I didn’t. He didn’t look much different, his hair a bit shorter, his skin tan. Typical summer changes, all easily undone by September. “How’ve you been?”
“Good,” I said as Chloe and Lissa walked past me, out the door. Jess I could feel hovering closer by, as if I needed reminding not to waste too much breath here. “How about you?”
“Freaking great,” he said, smiling big, and I wondered what I’d ever seen in him, with his slick looks and touchy-feely ways. Talk about subpar. I’d been bottom fishing and hadn’t even known it. Not that Dexter was much of an improvement, apparently.
“Oh, Jonathan,” I said, smiling at him and moving just a bit closer as two girls passed behind me. “You always were so modest.”
He shrugged, touching my arm again. “I was always great too. Right?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” I told him, but I kept smiling. “I gotta go.”
“Yeah, I’ll see you around,” he called after me, too loudly. “Where you gonna be later? You going to that party in the Arbors?”
I reached over my head with my hand and waggled my fingers, then walked out into the thick, humid night air. Lissa had already pulled her car around, and she and Chloe were waiting, engine idling, as Jess and I came down the stairs.
“Classy,” she said to me as we slid into the backseat.
“I was just talking,” I told her, but she only turned her head, rolling down her window, and didn’t say anything.
Lissa put the car in gear and we were off. I knew Dexter would wonder where I’d gone, just like he’d probably wonder who I’d been talking to and, whoever he was, why I’d been smiling at him that way. Boys were so easy to play. And if nothing else, I gave as good as I got. He could cozy up with some chick all he wanted, but I’d be damned if I’d sit and wait while he did it.
“Where we going?” Lissa asked, turning her head and glancing back at me.
“The Arbors,” I said. “There’s a party there.”
“Now we’re talking,” Chloe said. She reached forward and cranked up the radio. And just like that, it could have been old times: the four of us, on the prowl. Earlier I’d been the odd girl out, Miss Committed, having to warm the bench while they set out into the game. But no more. And there was still so much of summer left.
We were almost out of the parking lot when I heard it. A voice, yelling after us. Chloe turned down the radio as I twisted in my seat, already wondering what I’d say when Dexter asked why I was leaving, what was the deal, how exactly I could refute that automatic assumption that this was just jealous girlfriend behavior. Which it wasn’t. Not at all.
The voice yelled again, just as I peered through the back window. But it wasn’t Dexter. It was the guy Lissa had been talking to. He called her name, looking confused as we pulled out into traffic and drove away.
It was after one when Lissa dropped me off at the end of my driveway. I took off my shoes and started across the grass, taking a sip of the Diet Zip I’d gotten on the way home from the party in the Arbors, which had turned out to be a total bust. By the time we’d gotten there the cops had already been and gone, so we’d headed to the Quik Zip to sit on the hood of Lissa’s car, talking and sharing a big bag of buttered popcorn. A good way to end what had been, for the most part, a crap night.
It was nice outside now, though. Warm, the crickets chirping, and the grass cool under my bare feet. There was a sky full of stars, and the whole neighborhood was quiet, except for a dog barking a few yards over and the soft clackety-clacking of my mother’s typewriter, drifting out of her study window, where the light, as was the norm lately, was bright and burning.
There was someone behind me. I felt my whole body tense, then run hot, as I turned around. My full Diet Zip left my hand before I even realized it, sailing through the air at warp speed toward the head of the person who was standing in the middle of the lawn. It would have hit square on, perfect target, except that he moved at the last second, and it flew past, crashing against the mailbox and bursting open, showering the curb with Diet Coke and ice.