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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(18)

By:Jessica Hawkins

I opened my eyes and pushed Corbin off to look at the TV. "Black" by Pearl Jam. I had to write it down this time so I wouldn't forget, but I couldn't move. "I need to get up."

Corbin pulled back a little. "I know it's . . ." He lifted a corner of his mouth, showing me his white teeth. "I'm not sure how it's, like, possible, but I know."

His words floated through my brain, disconnected from each other. What was he talking about? "You know what?"


"You're so beautiful. You're the center of everyone's attention. But . . ."


"You're still Lake. So innocent. So sweet. I know you're a virgin, but I swear it doesn't bother me."

I looked down and shook my head. Warmth receded from everywhere but my face. Corbin could have anyone. I wondered if he'd taken a girl's virginity before-I was sure he had, or that he'd at least had the opportunity. "It's not that."

"Don't be embarrassed. I can show you how."

It hadn't occurred to me to be embarrassed, not with Corbin anyway, and not about my virginity. I crossed my arms over my breasts. I didn't want this, and for some reason, I felt guilty about that. "I'm sorry, Corbin."

He sighed, kissed my forehead, and sat back. "All right. I've waited this long. I can keep waiting."

I squinted at him. "Why?"

"Don't you have any clue how I feel about you?"

"I-no . . ."

That wasn't true. I had some idea. Corbin hadn't asked me out since that night at camp when he'd walked me to my cabin, but Val had tried to warn me about the situation in her own weird way.

"Don't you think if Vada Sultenfuss had known Thomas J. was going to go back into the beehive for her, she would've told him not to?"

"Um. What?" I asked. "Who?"

She sighed, exasperated. "My Girl, the movie. You're Corbin's best friend. You have to be careful or he'll get hurt."

"You're going to college," I told Corbin.


"There will be more girls than you can count."

"I've met a lot of girls, Lake. I still like you the most."

Somewhere in the room, someone wrestled with a bag of chips. Crinkle, kssh. Pop. The top of my scalp tingled. Corbin's eyes were naturally clear blue, but when they were bloodshot like now, it almost hurt to look at him. "You'll meet someone better at NYU."

"Better? What's not better about you?" he asked. "I bet you can't think of one thing that's wrong with you."

Everything, I wanted to say. Everything was wrong if Manning was gone, and now he'd be away even longer. I couldn't even see that he was okay or tell him I was sorry. He wasn't around to scold me for sitting on a couch smoking weed with a boy.

Crunch crunch crunch. The room smelled like Doritos. I covered my ears.

Corbin chuckled. "You're too high for this conversation."

Val walked by the doorway, skidded to a stop, and came in. She threw her hands up, a can of Cherry Coke in one and a white Airheads in the other. "I've been looking for you guys everywhere!" 

"We've been here," Corbin said.

"And in the bathroom," I said, which made Corbin and me giggle.

"Weirdos," Val said. She tore off a piece of taffy with her teeth and pointed the candy at me as she chewed. "Are you stoned, young lady?"

Corbin nodded to the joint. "Help yourself."

"Nah. I'm kinda over this place. I would've rather had that Meg Ryan movie marathon. Sleepless in Seattle for the main course, followed by When Harry Met Sally for dessert."

"Dude," Corbin said. "You have to see Joe Versus the Volcano."

"Dude, I already have, like five times. When you're stoned-"

"Yes." Corbin waved his hands excitedly. "When you're stoned! Let's rent it from Blockbuster and go to Val's. I'll find someone sober to drive us."

She raised her Cherry Coke. "Find me a car, and I'm your girl. I only took a sip of that beer. It was flat and gross."

Corbin stood, and they both looked down at me. I took his hand when he offered it, and he pulled me up. Val led the way downstairs.

"Please don't touch my ring," I told Corbin for the millionth time.

He raised our intertwined hands to inspect it. "I don't know why you're so attached to something you found on the ground. You don't even know what the colors mean."

"Yes I do. I figured it out, but when you change the color, I don't know how to feel."

"You change the color of the ring. It doesn't change you." He sighed but dropped my hand and slung an arm around my shoulder instead. A couple people snickered as we passed. I could already hear the rumors about how Corbin and I had been alone in the bathroom and then gone upstairs to make out. I didn't care. They could think what they wanted. Only one person's opinion mattered to me, and Manning would know when he got out that I was still here. Waiting.