Four; Lips

“For the last time,” I groan making my way to my locker to retrieve the lunch my mother packed for me today, “it was not a date. Thanks for telling him where I live by the way, it wasn’t creepy that he randomly showed up or anything .” Katie rolls her eyes with a smile.

“Brian kept asking me about Luke and what was going on with the two of you. He was very clearly jealous.” I give her a blank look. “I told him I had recently caught you two doing the nasty in the darkroom.” I pray she is kidding, there’s a slight chance she isn’t.

“Hey babe.” I nearly gag as Hunter wraps an arm around Katie’s waste and plants a sloppy kiss on her lips. Pet names make me sick, and seeing him kiss her like that is enough to induce vomiting. It’s like he’s drowning her or trying to choke her with his tongue or something. I bury my head in my locker and try to block out the noises of their lip lock. He’s really making it hard for me to be ok with him dating her.

“Is that normal?” Someone whispers on the side of me that isn’t blocked by the two teens displaying a serious amount of PDA, where is a faculty member when you need one? I would rather not watch Katie’s soul get sucked out. I sigh as I face Luke.

“For her? No. I’m not sure about him.” I say keeping my voice low. I swear I hear a soft moan come from one of them. I grab my lunch, shut my locker, and push Luke backwards quickly walking away. “They aren’t following are they?”

“No.” He shakes his head.

“Maybe we can hide before they notice I’m not there anymore. It’s a safe bet they didn’t notice you arrived. Why did you anyway?” Last night, talking to him became a little easier. Keeping everything in my body working like it should when he did certain little things- not so much.

“I thought I’d eat lunch with you. Unless you don’t want me to I can go.” He says, I can tell from his expression he doesn’t want to.

“It’s fine.”

“Should we go sit?” He doesn’t have any food, when I mention this he shrugs. “Not hungry.” I think back to what my dad said about me always having an appetite. A wave of self-consciousness washes over me. “I take it that didn’t help you warm up to him?” He says glancing back over at Katie and Hunter who are still as we’d left them. Katie is never like this with a boy and it has me a bit concerned. But right now, there are more pressing reasons as to why I don’t like him.

“He called her babe.” I grimace sliding into an empty seat at an empty table placing my bag of food in front of me. A few people are looking at me, Luke, or the both of us. I can only guess how long it’s going to take for the rumors to start.

“How horrible of him, he must be stopped.” He says in mock horror. He’s making fun of me I realize, trying to be funny. It’s cute. Actually it isn’t, because he’s making fun of me.

“Pet names are gross and sometimes downright skeevy.” This causes a raised brow. “When someone uses a pet name it says a lot about them, ‘babe’ for instance. There are three different things that could be going on, well two because one is just a rarity. So either a) you’re a surfer slash stoner with no real future in your relationship or professional endeavors, or b) you’re a dumb jock with absolutely no creativity flowing through your roided up bod.”

“And the third?” He looks like he’s trying not to laugh.

“Very rarely do you come across a couple where the use is acceptable, and there are only two times that ever happens. A genuine ‘Hey babe’ in greeting, but only acceptable when one person is busy doing something, or when someone does something cute but sad and a nice light ‘aww, babe’ in sympathy.” I pull out one of the containers of fruit from my bag and take the top off, grapes. The yummy red ones. My mother loves me. I offer one to Luke and he takes it popping into his mouth. I focus back on my grapes so I don’t focus on his lips, something I caught myself doing last night at dinner.

“All right, so clearly him calling your best friend ‘babe’ is not helping his case. What if he called her something else?”

“Like?” I prompt.



“Seriously?” He chuckles and the way his pale blue eyes light up make my stomach all fluttery.

“Seriously. Especially if you say it to a kid, even your own.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this.” He leans back in his chair and folds one ankle over his knee and crosses his hands behind his head. He looks so relaxed. The plain black shirt he’s wearing forms around his muscles a little tightly and I really need to stop noticing these things. I’ve never been boy crazy, ok well I was once about one boy. It didn’t turn out so well.

“Not really, it’s this instantaneous thing that just pops into my head.” I sound like a freak. I sigh and pop another grape into my mouth. I glance around quickly and notice Katie has finally come up for air. She and Hunter are walking our way hand-in-hand. “It seems they’ve finished greeting each other.” I mutter.

“There you are.” Katie beams looking from me to Luke and back again. “Thanks for ditching us by the way.”

“No problem. I’d rather spend time with my grapes than you anyway.” She glances over at my open container.

“She remembered not to get the green, you should fall out of trees more often.” Katie and Hunter take their seats while I pop another grape in my mouth.

“I’ll be sure to take that under advisement.”

“You did get a tri-pod out of it.” Luke reminds me. “And film.”

“True, not worth being stuck in this cast though.” I miss being able to drive myself. I’m sure I could manage with one arm but there is no way my mother is going to let me try. It’s also been three days and already the itching is starting, and with the way my arm has been cast there’s no way to reach the itchy spot.

“Hey.” Erin comes up. “Dad said to let you know he booked Grimaldi’s for tomorrow night.” I frown a bit, I would prefer not to run into Brian again, especially with my entire family around. “Something wrong?”

“Yeah-” Katie starts but I cut her off.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll get her there and let my dad know.” At that moment my phone vibrates in my pocket and I pull it out reading over the text from my dad. When I look up Erin is gone. “Anyone feel like chasing her down?” I ask.

“You’re funny.” Katie says dryly. It’s not that she doesn’t like Erin, it’s that as head of the cheerleading squad and a senior she is not going to be caught chasing down a freshman. And I don’t feel like doing it. “What’s up?”

“Dad says he has to work late in order to close the shop in time for tomorrow night. So I need to see if I can bum a ride from Uncle Joe.” Hunter perks up a bit at this.

“I can give you a ride again if you want. I’d really like to look around the woods behind your house, you could go with me if you want. See if we can find some wolves.” I feel Lukes’ eyes on me as Hunter says this. Clearly he chose to ignore my early statement about trespassers.

“No, it’s ok, I actually have to stop a few places after school. My uncle should be able to do it, if not I can call someone else.” With the large number of friends and family attending the surprise party for my mothers birthday tomorrow it shouldn’t be hard to find someone to give me a ride to pickup my mothers gift. “You and your mom are going tomorrow right?” I ask Katie.

“Of course, Mom is making the cake.” Katie’s mother owned the local bakery, while they didn’t make a ton of money they made enough to get by plus enough to put away for Katie’s tuition next year. Katie has already received a cheerleading scholarship though and I’ve been her mothers secret spy as to figuring out what kind of car to get Katie. She was picky and her mom wanted it to be perfect.

“Right.” This was Dad’s idea so I let him run with it not wanting to get in his way, I just pass a message or two along when needed. As I reach in my container for another grape I realize it’s my last one and sigh. “Any chance you know who’s working tomorrow?” I ask Katie. She nods giving me sympathetic eyes. The same ones she gave me when I stayed in bed balling my eyes out for the better part of two weeks. It didn’t stop when I managed to pull myself out of bed either as I was still a complete wreck. Only now do I realize he wasn’t worth it.

“I was there the other day when Joe came in to reserve the place. Brainless requested to be put on shift. Clearly he has a death wish.”

“Do you two always speak in code?” Hunter smiles clearly amused. Ugh. “What’s tomorrow and who is this ‘Brainless’ you speak of?”

“Surprise party for my mom.” I say not really wanting him to know, I’m worried he’ll either invite himself or Katie will invite him.

“You should totally come.” I nearly puke as I hear this- no way am I watching a repeat of what they were doing earlier- until I realize Katie is looking directly at Luke. “Len, chill. It may stop the inevitable nuclear meltdown your family is going to have tomorrow. I know your mom loves him, she called me last night after he picked you up.” If it were possible to die of mortification it would have happened by now. “I’m fairly certain your dad likes him considerably more than Brainless, and if you show up with Luke it may keep him and the rest of your family that hates him from beating the shit out of him.” Her eyes glimmer with hope at the thought of Brian getting punched in the face.

“Dad won’t-” I stop vividly remembering a speech my father made about beating Brian with a baseball bat if he ever saw him again. “I’ll just warn him, I’m sure my dad will be on his best behavior.”

“Yeah, but your mom’s been all ‘I am momma bear hear me roar’ since your accident, you think she’s not going to try to literally claw his eyes out?”

“I think you’re overestimating my mother. There is no way she’d risk causing a scene.”

“After what he did? Yeah, I’d say there is a really good chance she’s going to do a lot more than cause a scene.” The conversation is getting highly personal around people who have no business hearing it. I know Katie isn’t going to drop it either.

“Fine.” I inhale through my nose. “What are you doing tomorrow night?” My voice is a little tense as I ask Luke.

“Well when you ask like that…” Luke smirks. “What is it that you’re asking me to do exactly?”

“Go to my mothers surprise party tomorrow.” I say as innocently as possible knowing he fully heard everything we said just now.

“And step in should Brian come anywhere near you.” He adds. I nod and busy myself with pulling out the container of carrots from my bag. I realize this entire thing is beyond childish. Like I need Luke to protect me from the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ or something. “I’ll go on one condition.” I look at him, waiting. “Let me give you a ride home, I’ll stop wherever you want.”

“Ha, right.” I am not getting on his motorcycle.

“I took my aunts car this morning, I know how your mom feels about my personal mode of transportation.” Katie gets this stupid grin that she’s trying to conceal that I can see from the corner of my eye. I snap a baby carrot in half and throw it at her.

“Fine. But if you even think about stranding me-”

“I promise that will not happen, and in any case I have your number now.” No he doesn’t. I never gave it to him. Though, I’m not sure which is creepier: him getting my address or my number from someone other than me.

“Remind me to talk to you about boundaries.” I say giving Katie a dark look.

“You need to get back into that zombie state you go into when you’re behind your camera. Seriously Len, you’re not you. You’re a crabbier, shorter fused, tensed up, whacked out version of yourself.”

“Is there anyone who isn’t going to bring that up?” Grandmothers birthday was last week, and while I still fully intended to give her the album it wouldn’t be until Christmas now. I did try at her birthday party to get a few shots but nothing came out. Even Grandmother had commented that it had been affecting my mood. I had a shiny new tripod though, so that should help. “I can’t help it if things have been… off. Especially after yesterday it’s a damn miracle I even got out of bed this morning.” When I got home last night it was eerily silent so I went to bed assuming my parents had already fallen asleep. As if that day couldn’t have gotten any worse, just before I fell asleep I could hear noises of passion coming from their room. I stuffed my headphones in and tried to drown out the horrible imagery that followed them but it didn’t work.

“He is not worth-”

“That’s not what she’s talking about.” Luke says gently, cutting her off. “He’s only a part of it.” Katie’s eyebrows shoot up shocked and slightly displeased at having to learn information about me from someone else.

“Could someone please explain to me who the ‘he’ is?” Hunter looks annoyed. I really don’t know why he feels the need to be kept in the loop. I know I should be giving him a chance but…

“Lenore’s fuckwad ex.” Katie says darkly.

“Is he bothering you?” Hunter asks me. Why would he care? It’s not any of his business. “Because if he is I’ll totally come tomorrow and-”

“No way,” Katie holds up her hand cutting him off, “you are so not meeting my mom yet.”


“Can I help you?” I smile at the woman behind the counter even though she’s looking at me like I don’t belong in her ‘fine jewelry’ store. Granted my hair isn’t looking so pretty and I just threw on the first thing I could get my hands on this morning. I run a hand through my long blonde curls and wish I had taken my mother up on her offer to help me with my hair this morning. But just looking at her reminded me of the particularly disturbing noises coming from her room last night.

“I’m here to pick up two orders, last name Gray, first names Lenore and Charlie.” If there’s anything my mother loved to be given, it was jewelry. “They should already be paid for.”

“I’ll go check.” I can’t be sure but I think she sneers.

“So what should I get your mom?” Luke asks coming up to lean on the counter beside me. As it turns out he’s not that bad of company, minus the things he does to my insides.

“Nothing. She’ll just be happy your there with uh, me.” I look away a bit embarrassed.

“I know you’re just using me to make sure your ex leaves you alone, and keep your family from killing him. I take it there is a lot more to the story than you told me last night, but I’m not going to ask.”

“Man,” I whisper to myself, “I really have been a bitch lately.” Luke smiles like he’s really happy about something. My insides go all fluttery.

“Lenore, if you hadn’t asked I would have offered. I like you and if this is how I get to spend time with you then so be it.” He doesn’t mean he like likes me. I think. Either way my heart is beating faster than it should be.

“Here we are.” The lady that works here comes out with two boxes. One thin, rectangular, and black, the other a black cube. I open the cube first seeing the pearl earrings I selected and then check the next box. Dad got her a tennis bracelet, she is going to be one happy woman tomorrow. “If I could just see some form of identification.” I swear it looks like she’s expecting me to not be either Lenore or Charlie Gray. I rummage in my purse and pull out my wallet opening it show her my license. “We’re all set then, have a nice day.” I collect the boxes and place them in my purse and turn to start towards the door.

“Wait.” Luke says and steps in front of me. And I mean directly in front of me. My nose brushes the top of his shoulder and man does he smell good. Like really good. Pine, smoke, vanilla I don’t know what it is about that combination but it’s a good one. I faintly realize I am sniffing him and stop. My eyes land on the reason he stopped me as I look away embarrassed. Hunter, he’s just parked a few spaces down from where Luke did and is walking past the store. “I figured you wouldn’t want to run into him.” He says softly his breath hot on my ear, as he pulls his head back I swear I feel his lips lightly brush against my cheek. I try desperately not to blush.

“Am I crazy?” I ask him my voice coming out much softer than I meant it to. He tilts his head to the side questioning me, “For not liking him, I know I should give him a chance for Katie it’s just…” I trail off unsure of what to say.

“I’ve never spent more than 10 seconds with him until today and I don’t like him either. You said you told him the people who owned the woods don’t like trespassers and today he asked again if he could go back there. After what you said happened out there yesterday I don’t blame you for not wanting him to stay away.” He steps back from me and the air is a little less warm.

“It wouldn’t exactly be the hardest thing in the world for him to figure out who really owns the woods.” I say walking towards the door. I peek to the right, the direction Hunter went and don’t see him anywhere. “Public record and all that.” Luke holds the door open and doesn’t say anything until we’re in the car driving towards my house.

“Who owns the woods if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Grandmother, and then when she dies they become mine.” I shouldn’t have said that last part. “Which you cannot repeat. Seriously. I am so not supposed to know about that. I accidentally found her will when she let me go through some old papers she had for the town history paper I had to write. If anyone finds out it’s going to start a huge fight. Even Katie doesn’t know. Though, if Hunter asks she may tell him who does own it.”

“Your secrets are safe with me.” He promises. I can’t help but get the feeling he has a few secrets of his own.