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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(17)

By:Jessica Hawkins

He gripped my sweater, wetting his lips. "Lake."

I smiled, wrinkling my nose at him. "Corbin."

"Can I kiss you?"

I was so surprised by the question that I blurted, "In the bathroom?"

He chuckled, then passed me my sweater. "Good point. Come on."

After I dressed, we left the bathroom, and I followed Corbin upstairs to a dimly lit room clouded with smoke. A few kids I didn't recognize lounged on overstuffed leather couches passing around a joint. The glare of the TV turned the smoke green and blue, pink and white.

Corbin nodded at one of the guys. "Move." He did, sloth-like as he rocked forward and off the cushions to give Corbin and me the couch.

MTV was on. The next music video started, the title "Soon" by My Bloody Valentine popping up in the corner. Corbin handed me a joint I hadn't even seen him light. "Smoke this."

It was the opposite of what Manning would do. He went out of his way to keep his vices from me. I remembered how he'd played with a cigarette on the wall, tapping it on his knee, sticking it behind his ear. Nothing took me back to him like the smell of cigarettes. This wasn't what Manning smoked, but maybe it would make me feel close to him anyway. I put the joint between my lips, sucked as deeply as possible-and coughed for a full two minutes while my eyes watered and my throat burned.

Corbin laughed. "Sorry. I should've warned you that might happen. I've been toking so long, I forgot what it's like in the beginning."

I'd never even had a cigarette, but here I was, smoking weed. I put both hands on the sofa as my environment sharpened then softened. The black leather cushions made it feel like we were in the back of a car. I sank into them. The music video began to spaz, flashing colors, images echoing like sound. 

"You all right?" Corbin asked with a lopsided smile.

I blinked a few times. It wasn't unpleasant. The opposite, actually. I realized I was grinning. "I think so."

He sat up, took the blunt, and put it on the coffee table. Angling in front of me, he blocked the TV and kissed me. Lost in the new sensations, I didn't see it coming so I just sat there, stunned. I'd never been kissed, not even by Manning, not really. I had touched my lips to the corner of his, but that wasn't anything. This wasn't how I'd envisioned my first time. I didn't care that it was at a stranger's house or that we both had beer breath or that I was surrounded by stoners. I only cared that it wasn't Manning.

"Why?" I asked.

"Why what?"

I didn't know how to answer. I hadn't meant to say it aloud. I had no idea what I was even asking. Someone sparked a lighter over and over.

Corbin pressed his forehead against mine. "I've wanted to do that since I saw you eating cotton candy on the steps that night at the Fun Zone."

He was so close that his face doubled and I had to shut my eyes. Darkness began to swallow me up. I moved back against the arm of the couch, and Corbin took it as an invitation to lean on top of me. He slid his hands around my waist and pressed his face into the crook of my neck. My top stuck damply to my skin, but my chest prickled with warmth that spread down my tummy. The alcohol, the weed, the kiss worked fast, loosening my limbs, settling my thoughts.

I wasn't sure how long I'd been sitting there. The song had changed to something I recognized, but it sounded both distant and all-consuming, like it was playing in the next room and in my head.

"Lake?" Corbin murmured. "You there?"

"Mmm." Jesus, I felt good. I'd drunk the beer to fill a hole, but I didn't truly believe for a second it would work. I'd been wrong. This was nice. Even having Corbin on top of me was nice. Maybe it wasn't a betrayal. Maybe Manning wasn't real, just a figment of my imagination. This was a better state of mind, less painful, an absence of ache. To be tipsy and wanted, it was a heady feeling.

Maybe this was real.

Corbin kissed me again, wet and slimy, but not in a bad way. At some point, I'd closed my eyes. I fought the urge to apologize for having no idea what I was doing. Was my breath fresh enough? Where did I put my hands? He put his in my top, sliding them up my stomach to my bra. "Let's go somewhere," he said. He slipped a finger into the cup of my bra, and my skin exploded with goose bumps. "It's too crowded in here."

It would be so easy to fall into the dark behind my lids, to give in, but the voice talking to me wasn't Manning's deep bass that'd rumbled against my palms when I'd hugged him, or the soothing monotone I'd clung to while contorted in the back of a truck the night the cop had nearly caught us.

Reality came back to me in pieces. The burn of my lungs, the murmur of voices, music. I should've recognized the song sooner, but it wasn't until that moment that I did. I hadn't heard it since the night Manning had driven Tiffany and me to the fair-I'd been trying to find it since.