Girls Like Boys


Ramsy picked me up at Travis’s hotel the next day. We waited for her just inside the lobby windows. Despite the snow that lined the walk on the other side of the glass, he looked cool and casual as he leaned against one of the supporting pillars. He wore a simple black t-shirt with a strip of classic red and black flannel at the bottom. It hung long on him, but introduced the only color to his wardrobe. Otherwise, he donned black skinny jeans and white, strappy sneakers. His green eyes followed the truck as Ramsy pulled up on the street out front.

“I’ll see you later,” he said quietly, not moving from his spot. “I’ll get the sled.”

“And a real coat,” I replied, referring to the series of useless jackets that he brought with I’m from Tuscaloosa.

Travis crosses his arms over his chest as he stared hard at the black bomber jacket he was already wearing. While better than the one from the night before, it still wasn’t warm enough to combat the snow. “Yes, Cody, I’ll get a coat,” he replied, turning his chin against his shoulder to hide his grin. “Don’t stress too much about Charlie. It’ll be fine.”

I nodded and pulled away, heading toward Ramsy and the impatient looks she shot at us from the truck. It was already after eleven, and after a night out doing things Charlie would’ve hated, Ram was anxious to get back and pretend that everything was completely normal.

“Jesus, Cody, I know you saw me pull up,” Ram muttered as I threw the passenger’s door open and climbed out of the snow. “You’ll see him again. It’s not like he’s going off to fight in the war. He’s going to Alabama.”

I frowned as we pulled away from the street. “He’s not leaving yet,” I said. “He’s going to stay for a few days before he heads home.”

Ram matched my expression. “Why?”

I shrugged. “We’re going sledding later. He’s going to pick me up after lunch with Charlie.”

Ramsy balked, turning completely from the road to look at me. I immediately reached out and grabbed the wheel, screaming Ramsy’s name as the snow tires righted themselves beneath the car.

“Are you crazy?” I screamed.

Ram took the wheel again. “Are you crazy? You can’t bring Travis to the house, Cody. You don’t seriously plan to introduce him as your boyfriend or whatever. Charlie will die, and Esther will never shut up about it.”

“It’s not the end of the world, Ramsy, but no. Of course I’m not telling Charlie he’s my boyfriend. He’s not even… It’s not like that. Travis and I are our own thing. Trav just doesn’t want to sneak around. He’s only here for a couple days.”

“Esther is going to send Wesley to live with us,” Ramsy lamented, imagining worst-case scenarios for when they realize how much time Travis and I really spend together.

“They already suspect something,” I replied, hoping it would cushion the blow. “We were at his house for Thanksgiving. They both met Travis then.”

“That’s different than him driving eight hours to see you,” Ram retorted. “Normal guys don’t do that. Like, I get that you’re friends, but you and him and weirdly obsessed with each other, Cody.” She made her way through the city, caught between wanting to drive slow to avoid the coming fight and to hurry to appease our father. It resulted in a very jerky ride.

“Friends visit each other, Ramsy,” I said, annoyed with her eternal pessimism. “And even if Charlie does freak, we’re leaving in two weeks. He’ll get over it.”

“I doubt Travis is worth it,” Ram answered, sliding her eyes from me to the road.

I leaned back against the seat with the soles of my feet pressed against the dashboard and texted Travis. Since it was already almost afternoon, he was shopping for a new coat and sled, sending me pictures of winter jackets with his personal commentary. Used to a certain style, Trav wasn’t pleased with the winter-coat-aesthetic available in Terre Haute. I texted him directions to the mall.

When Ram turned onto the long gravel road that led to our property, I tucked my phone away, sick over the nerves in the pit of my stomach. I glared at Ramsy as she parked the truck, frustrated that she wasn’t on my side for this. I dropped out of the truck and slammed the door behind me, causing Ramsy to jump out in anger.

“Knock it off, Cody!” Ram yelled as I barreled toward the house. “It’s not my fault you make stupid decisions! Just because we’re sisters doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything you do!”

“You never agree with anything!” I retorted, stomping up the porch stairs. “You hate everything I do and all my friends, but still want to be a part of all of it! You can’t have both!”

Ram stomped through the snow as I flew through the front door. Charlie looked up from the couch, surprised to see me, and then calmed as Ram came in too, slamming the door behind her. Esther tsked next to Charlie, looking between us.

“You’re my sister, Cody!” Ram yelled, chasing after me. “Am I supposed to leave you alone every single minute of your life? I’m sorry that I like spending time with you.”

“So long as you’re the only one who gets to,” I called back, irritated that she was following me, even more irritated that we shared a room and she had just as much right to be there as I did. I longed for Travis’ house, where Ramsy couldn’t be unless I wanted her there.

As I rounded through the kitchen, Ramsy hot on my heels, I heard Esther tell Charlie to get up, and I heard his answering sigh, then our names from his mouth.

I slammed the bedroom door just for Ramsy to open it and slam it again.

“Ramsy, Cody,” Charlie said in the hall. “What’s going on?”

“Do not think I’m jealous of Travis,” Ram retorted, spitting his name like it was venomous. “That’s ridiculous. That boy is a walking disaster.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, Ram, you’re jealous of Travis, and Ryan, and Shay, and Benji, and Erick, and everyone else. You’re so used to me following you around that you don’t know what to do when you turn around and I’m not there. This isn’t high school anymore.”

Ram scoffed. “Yeah, I’ve noticed,” she muttered. “You don’t care about anything but what you or Travis want to do. You haven’t even noticed how hard it is for me there!”

“I’ve noticed,” I yelled back. “It’s just not my job to take care of you! I invite you to go places with us and you always spend the first hour complaining. It gets old real fast. I’m not your clone, Ram. You don’t own me.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Charlie yelled as he came into the room. “Do you two even hear yourselves? You’re sisters, twins. You’re supposed to look after each other! Be happy for each other!”

Ramsy and I both quieted, standing in the center of our childhood room with our arms crossed over our chests. We were two little tornados, dragging in everyone around us.

Charlie pushed his fingers through his hair, his hand on his hip as he took a breath and digested the situation. “Does one of you want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, earning a dark look from Charlie and Ramsy both.

Charlie turned to Ram, eyebrows raised.

I shot her the darkest glare I could. She matched it.

Charlie sighed loudly and threw his hands up. “For as much as you two claim you’re adults, you’re acting like children. Work it out yourselves then.” He turned and walked back out of the room, leaving the door wide open as he called to Esther. I figured she was standing at the mouth of the hall, listening in. When she responded, her voice was just close enough to prove my point.

“I don’t think you’re my clone,” Ramsy sneered, “but you are my sister, and I thought that meant something.”

“Obviously you think it means that I follow you around and do what you want.” I shrugged, pushing past her.

“It’s not like you had any friends of your own before Travis,” Ram said dryly. “You were perfectly fine with all of it before you met him.”

I refolded my arms over my chest. “It’s not about him,” I replied, glaring at her. “It’s about you and the fact that you can’t accept that I have my own friends now. I supported you all senior year when you dated that jackass, Evan, but you can’t even side with me against Charlie when it comes to Travis, and you know he’s better than ninety percent of the guys you dated.”

Ram bristled. “Travis is nice, yeah, okay,” she retorted, “but he’s also dangerous and reckless, Cody. Charlie’s going to realize that the minute you bring him here, and I don’t want to end our break by getting into a huge fight with our dad. We don’t get to come back here until spring break.”

“Why does everything have to be a fight?” I asked, sighing as I dropped down onto my bed, “and why can’t you just do this for me? Charlie will forgive you.”

“Because I don’t want to!” Ram replied, shaking her head. “Travis isn’t worth it for me, Cody.”

Stunned and angry, I pushed up from my bed and tore out of the room. I heard Ram call my name, but I barely heard her, heading to the living where Esther and Charlie were. When they saw me coming, Esther asked, “where do you think you’re going, Cody? You owe your father an explanation.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” I replied with an apathetic shrug, “but one of my friends is coming here for lunch.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

Charlie frowned. “What friend?”

“Travis,” I said.

I watched the disconnect roll through Charlie’s expression as he tried to place the name to someone here, unwilling to accept that I was talking about the same Travis from Alabama – the same boy he told me to stay away from on our very first night there, the same boy I’d kept from him for months.

“Travis?” Esther repeated. “That tattooed boy from Alabama? What is he doing here?”

“I invited him to come visit me,” I replied. “I missed him, so he came up last night and is staying in a hotel. He’ll be here in about an hour to reintroduce himself.”

“You missed him?” Charlie repeated, frowning at his memories of Travis; the first day at Murphy’s, the Supra outside of Tutwiler on Thanksgiving, a midnight FaceTime call last week.

I could see the wheels turning in Charlie’s head. “Yeah,” I said, stumbling over the world. “He’s one of my best friends, Dad. He needed a break from Alabama and had never seen snow before.” I glanced nervously out through the front porch to the snow that blanketed everything.

Charlie sighed loudly and really looked at me for the first time. “I don’t like this, Cody,” he said, getting up from the couch. “You always keep this boy a secret.”

“I don’t want to make you mad,” I replied, following him from the living room. “I don’t want to ruin the rest of our break, but Travis is here, and he wants to introduce himself-“

“Why?” Charlie asked, stopping at the sink in the kitchen. “What makes a guy want to meet a girl’s father, Cody? I’m not ignorant. I know what happens when teenage girls are taken with older, tattooed boys. Nothing good, that’s what.”

“Dad,” I breathed. “Travis isn’t some stereotype. He’s a real person. He’s smart, and talented, and thoughtful. He’s the one that wanted you to know he’s here. He wanted to be upfront. Because we’re friends, and he doesn’t want to make things difficult.”

“'You’re friends',” Charlie echoed, shaking his head. “Kids are always friends nowadays until they’re not.” He moved to his right, and I rotated around him like a satellite, staying close as he moved from the fridge to the stove again and again.

I sighed loudly, working my brain around Charlie’s riddles. “What do you want, Dad?” I asked. “Do you want some long explanation of what Travis and I are? There’s nothing to tell you. He’s important to me, and I missed him and Alabama, so he’s here to make things easier.”

Charlie paused, still not looking at me. “You missed Alabama so much that you couldn’t handle being home another two weeks without this boy?” he asked. “You don’t see a problem with that, Cody? You’ve known Alabama four months.”

“Why do I always have to choose between things?” I questioned, shaking my head at the words. “Does it have to be Alabama or Indiana? I thought Travis coming would put an end to all that. I didn’t want it to make you mad.” I moved to the kitchen table and sit down in the nearest chair, watching my father as he busied himself with making lunch.

“I’m not yelling,” Charlie said calmly. “I’m not making you choose. I just didn’t realize you were so eager to leave home again.”

“It’s not about leaving home,” I replied, choking on my honesty. “It’s about getting back to Alabama.”

“Alabama,” Charlie repeated quietly, turning to look at me completely.

I nodded, meeting his dark eyes.

Charlie sighed, eyes closing for the briefest moment as he turned back around. “You’ve still got two weeks home, Cody,” Charlie said, “but he can come for lunch today.”

I grinned and nodded, jumping up from the kitchen table. “That’s good,” I said, “because he’ll be here in about forty-five minutes. Don’t be surprised if he wants to go sledding after.” I hurried out of the kitchen and back to my bedroom, shutting the door behind me. Ram laid in her bed, holding her phone above her head, and I jumped into my own blankets to tell Travis about Charlie’s reaction.

Ram didn’t say one word to me while I waited for Trav to make it. When he was close, I pulled my boots and jacket on, and took truck down the road to meet him there since the house was hidden at the end of a gravel road between the forests. I parked at the entrance of our street, watching nervously for the M5. When it finally came around the bend, I pulled out and turned the truck around. I pulled right to the side of the road, careful to avoid the snowbank.

Travis pulled the BMW right behind me.

I climbed out of the truck, noting the confusion on Travis’s face. The house wasn’t even visible from this far back, so Travis knew that we weren’t there yet. I barreled across the snow-covered gravel and jumped into Trav’s car.

“Cody, hey,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“Once you get to my house, we won’t have a minute to ourselves,” I warned him, leaning back against the BMW’s heated seat. “Charlie said you can come, but that doesn’t mean Esther won’t make a scene. Wes isn’t home though, so that’s a bonus, although Ram’s attitude it going cause a few problems.”

Trav blinked at me. “Slow down,” he replied. “What’s wrong with Ram?”

I shook my head. “We got in a fight. It’s not a big deal. She’s just very against you coming over, and I yelled at her for being a bad sister, so we’re ignoring each other.”

Travis frowned. “Damn, so she’s pissed at me too then? I was kind of hoping she’d be around for backup when I meet your dad.”

“You’ve met my dad,” I said, echoing the words from last night.

Leaning with his head against the seat, Travis gave me a look. I knew what it meant. Not like this, it said. Not after what happened.

I nodded in response, steadying myself for the all the between-the-lines conversations we were about to have with my family. For all the things they would read into us, and we wouldn’t be able to deny.

Trav nodded toward the truck. “Now or never,” he said.

I nodded anxiously. “Okay, see you when we get there.”

Trav unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned cross the center console. His fingers, cold despite the heat of the BMW, traced the curve of my jaw as he kissed me. “Last one for a while,” he said when he pulled back.

“Fourth one,” I said.

Trav grinned, eyes narrowing at me. “It’s been more than that,” he refuted, shaking his head at the thought.

“Fourth place it’s happened,” I explained.

Trav’s head brushed against his seat as he thought about it. “This is only the third time,” he said, shaking his head at my math. “My room,” he said, counting on his fingers, “the hotel, right here.”

I shook my head and pushed his ring finger up. “In this car outside that restaurant the last week in September,” I said, recalling the very first time he kissed me. Before it ever meant anything to either of us.

Travis smiled. “I really didn’t know what was coming,” he said quietly, rolling his head to look at me. “I’m still pissed that he kissed you first, especially like that.”

“It was a long time ago,” I said, brushing my fingers down the side of his face, brushing it off. “All I remember from that night is you.”

Trav rolled his eyes at the emotion of it all, smiling. “Alright, get out of my car before Charlie thinks I kidnapped you and comes hunting for me with a shotgun. I really can’t afford to patch up holes in the BMW.”