Look at the way he's stacking up the wood, like he's some type of macho man. Obviously trying to impress me. He's completely clueless that he's overrated in my mind. And his jeans are way too tight. You know, he's not as hot as he thinks he is with sweat dripping down his forehead. And his neck. And his chest. And- Stop it.

... News flash, Owen. We're history.


18. Eighteen

I'm not going home. I refuse. James and Kaylin can live their life on their own. They're probably celebrating right now, not wondering where I am. It's midnight and I think I'm lost but I don't care. 

Just thinking about Owen brings tears to my eyes. Right now I'm thinking about Ava growing a belly, and Owen putting a crib together. When she has the baby he'll probably go to the hospital with her and hold her hand while she delivers. And when its all over he'll kiss her sweaty forehead just like in the movies. I wipe my tear and keep walking. It's so cold that I can see my breath, and I wish I had my coffee back. 

I'll find a place to live and get a job. Then I'll be able to get along by myself and find my own happily ever after. Everything and everybody in the past is dead to me, and I just want to be by myself. Now is when I realize that I'm not good at lying to myself. James and Kaylin will eventually have some kids. I wouldn't want to intrude while their trying to love their life together. James will be okay without me. He already lost his two people he loves, I'm sure he can handle one more. He's happy. And I'm happy that he's happy. 

Lying still isn't working.

I start to think that I'm crazy and tell myself that this will never work. But the stubborn side of me is ripping those thoughts away and stuffing me with confidence. By one a.m. I find a spot on the side of the road and sit down to close my eyes. I have pepper spray in my bag and I take it out to have it ready in my right hand. My head bobs in exhaustion until I actually fall out, and I feel like I've only slept for two minutes the next time I open my eyes. 

The sun is coming up, and I can see it for only a second and then it gets blocked by a figure. I rub my blurry eyes and force myself to stand up. I take the pain that comes with my tired calves and stretch. The figure covering the sun is still in front of me, and it's not until now that I see him staring at me. He has light brown skin and bright brown eyes. I decide not to smile at him because I don't want him to think I'm friendly. "Hey, beautiful." He moves forward and I move back so my body hits the concrete wall behind me. I shake my head to show him that I'm not interested and rest my finger lightly on the pepper spray applicator. The guy has something in his teeth, and I almost gag when puts his hot hand around my back. I can smell his breath and I can't stand it so I push him away.

"Leave me alone." 

"I'm not gonna hurt you, baby." He says it like he's from the country, and I feel like he would totally hurt me and he's a really bad liar. Before I know it he has me pressed against the freezing wall and he's trying to kiss my neck. I push his face away with my palm and cry out until he's pulled off of me. 

"Leave the girl alone Chewy!" Its a woman's voice and it's loud enough to scare him away. 'Chewy' rolls his eyes and walks away with a limp, and I'm shaking. They must know each other. "Man, that boy is gonna end up in prison one of these days." She smiles at me and shows me her yellow teeth. "And I'm not bailin' him out." Then she puts her hand out. "I'm Yennifer."

"Jennifer." I say, because I think I misunderstood her. 

"No, Yennifer. With a y." She has a thick spanish accent, and her hair is down to her butt. It's the first thing I notice from her appearance besides her teeth. 

"Presley." I give her hand a shake and let go too quickly. "And, thank you for that." I point with my thumb to Chewy, who stands at the end of the sidewalk with another guy.

She starts to shake her head. "He's my stupid brother. Doesn't know when to stop." I smile when she rolls her eyes, and realize that the guy must have been less harmful than he looked. "Well he's my half brother, we have different moms. I just met him a few years ago." Her legs move forward into the middle of the sidewalk, and I walk beside her with my arms wrapped around myself. She looks about twenty one. "But I'd take a bullet for him." I smile lightly and think of James and if he's worried. He'd certainly take a bullet for me. I wonder if he called the cops to tell them that I've gone missing. As soon as that thought swims into my head, and police car drives by, and I turn my body away from it so they can't see me. "Are you hiding from the fuzz?" I assume she means the cops, so I nod. "What did you do? Did you get away with murder?" She laughs, and I laugh too because I barely understand what she says, but I still answer.

"I ran away from home." 

"Why mama?" She links her arm with mine, and she's probably more cold than I am because she's wearing a short sleeved shirt. 

"My big brother is getting married to Malibu Barbie and the guy I'm in love with got a girl pregnant." she gasps and covers her mouth to reveal all the rings on her fingers. 

"Why would you leave, Presley?" she looks sad. "At least you have a home." I frown, because I don't know what she means. But it hits me when we reach a group of people crowded around sleeping bags and blankets on the side of the road. "This is my home." My face turns to look at her, and her eyes look empty. "Me and Chewy found them about four months ago. They're like familia." she lets go of me and walks to them and they all look at me. Yennifer says something in spanish and I walk over too because I'm not afraid of them. "This is my new friend, Presley." There's about twelve or thirteen people and they all wave at me. One pale girl with short purple hair comes over and squeezes me. 

"Welcome." she tells me, and her orbs look glazed over. I smile at her.  

"That's Mindy." Yennifer says when the girl walks away. "She's a little..." she makes a twirling gesture with her finger to let me know that Mindy is prone to be a little strange. I smile at another woman who looks like she's in her thirties, and another who wears way too much eyeliner. There are guys too, but they seem to keep to themselves. One of them grins at me, and he has nice smile. I'm too shy to smile back so I look away bashfully. "Sit." Yennifer says, and I obey. We're on a red sleeping bag, and Mindy joins us with a bottle in her hand. She offers the vodka to me, and I probably look surprised because she smiles like she's making fun of me. 

"No thank you." I shake my head. Yennifer rolls her eyes at Mindy. 

"Aye, Yenni!" One of the guys call. She looks, and he uses his head to gesture her to go over there. She leaves me by myself, and I push my front hair behind my ear. The strands of light brown are cold. I focus on my shivering until she returns. 

"You see that guy over there?" I'm starting to warm up to her accent, and it doesn't sound so foreign anymore. I look at where she's pointing, at a guy sitting on the curb with a cigarette in his mouth. He's the guy with the good smile. I nod. "He thinks your cute. His name is Jamie." I snort out a laugh, and then he uses the same head gesture to me. I stand up without hesitation.

"I'll be right back." I tell Yenni and she giggles. While I'm walking away I hear her shout for some one to pass her the jelly beans, and I smile. Jaime probably thinks I'm smiling at him, and that's okay. "Hi." I sit next to him so that our knees are touching, and I should be nervous but I'm not. 

"I like your hair." His comment is weird but it makes me laugh. 

"Thank you." he blows his last puff of smoke in the opposite direction so that I don't have to breath it in, and steps on the cigarette. "You probably shouldn't smoke." I tell him. 

"Why not?" he says it like he's eager and curious. 

"Because you have really nice teeth."

"Hmmm. What a good girl, Presley." 

"Not exactly." I say that to flirt, and we both grin. 

"I'm James." He doesn't put his hand of for me to shake, he just says it. 

"That's my brother's name." 

He nods. "You can call me Jamie." I nod too. 

"Okay." suddenly it's awkward, and I don't want to be here anymore. I don't want this guy with the nice teeth. I want Owen. I want Owen because he loves me. 

Stop it, Presley.

"Let's go for a walk." he stands up and offers me a hand. I take it, and he doesn't let go. So we're holding hands. You can't have Owen. 

Jamie and I walk down the street. We talk about personal stuff, which is strange because we just met. His dad died when he was twelve and his mom kicked him out because she found drugs in his room. He's been living with the group for a year. I told him about my parents' death and my brother's engagement. "So now I'm here." I don't mean to say it with a pained voice. 

"Are you gonna stay with us?" We're not holding hands anymore, but his arm is slung around my shoulders. 

"I don't know. Maybe." I don't look at him when I say it, because all of this is starting to feel weird. It's only been a day since I was home last. And I'm here with a homeless group of young people that have accepted me without question. 

"I think you should go home." I shake my head because my stubborn side is still poking me. 

"I'm not." 

"I'm sure they're looking for you." 

"Yeah so I should probably keep moving before they find me here." he sighs like he's gonna miss me. He removes his arm and my neck is suddenly cold. 

"Just stay for today. Sleep with the group and you can go off in the morning." I pretend to be thinking about it and then nod. And he smiles and takes my hand. And we walk back to the group. 


"Please don't go." Yenni says. I'm afraid she might cry while she's hugging me. 

"I really really have to. Thank you so much for this." I squeeze her again and she sighs. 

"You can stay with us, you can be a part of our family." her cold hand squeezes mine, and our teeth are chattering. 

"She has to go home, Yenni." Jamie says. "She's smart. She'll figure it out." he winks at me and I step closer to him. He leans and pecks me on the lips for the first time. It's casual and kinda sad. "Here." he has a scarf around his neck, navy blue and made of yarn. He gives it to me, wrapping it around my frigid neck. 

"Thank you." I wave to the others and blow a kiss to Yenni as I walk away. The muscles in my legs don't hurt as much as they did when I first got here, so I feel better to walk now. I look back at the group  one more time and focus on Jamie, my boyfriend for a day. I let out a small giggle at the thought of it because it sounds ridiculous. I watch him closely and his actions surprise me. He reaches for some thing in his pocket, the pack of cigarettes. He glances around to see if anyone is looking, then he throws them in the trash can a few feet away. I mentally applaud him with pride and from what I see, he looks proud of himself. 

I keep walking, and realize that I haven't eaten a real meal. The past twenty four hours only consisted of me eating saltine crackers and jelly beans. I only have five dollars, and I'm about to use it to ride the bus. I'm planning on finding my way back to the cemetery so I can talk to my parents. 

When I get off the bus I'm left with two dollars. I stayed with the group longer than I planned, a whole extra day than I bargained for, just because Yenni convinced me. I've only checked my phone to look at the time, because I only have ten percent of battery left. In the past three days I've received sixty one missed calls from James and thirty nine from Owen. He knows I'm gone because James called him, no doubt about it. I walk fast toward the tombstones and kneel down in front of them. There is a fresh bouquet of flowers laid in between them and I look at the date on them. Yesterday. James was probably here when he didn't know where to find me, and I'm sure he'll be back to check again. He might have sat here to talk to Mom and Dad about me. I have to leave before he returns, but not until I talk to my folks. 

"I miss you." Is all I say. It's a whisper, and comes out like a choke. "I want you back." A cold burst of wind passes, and I shiver hard. "Why can't you just come back." My words are spat out through gritted teeth, and I wanted to scream it aloud but I would not let myself. My fists are clenched like rocks as I take deep breaths and eventually let my body fall onto the frozen grass. My limbs curl into a ball and I feel sick for so many reasons. My brother is gonna have a wife. Owen loves me but he can't because he's having a baby with Ava. My parents aren't coming back. Ever. I'm freezing and I can feel my stomach quivering. I'm hungry and dehydrated. I want to sleep in my bed, and I'm tired of snoozing on the ground, but it's my best option now. 

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