The form of things unkno.., p.16
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       The Form of Things Unknown, p.16

           Robin Bridges
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  “And what about you?” Hank asks. “You must have moved on if you weren’t happy to see Caleb today.”

  I frown. “Just because I don’t want to be with him anymore doesn’t mean there’s someone else.”

  Andria and Trista exchange glances in the rearview mirror. “Oh, there’s definitely someone else,” Tris says. “Are we going to meet Mr. Someone Else tonight?”

  I cover my face with my hands. I’m blushing and I don’t even know why.

  “Y’all leave her alone,” Alex says, grinning. “Maybe David will give us the details.”

  And maybe Mom gave me enough money to buy my brother’s silence. We pull into IHOP and I’m actually relieved to see Lucas’s car missing.

  No really. It makes this easier.

  David is getting out of his truck and says hi to Alex and Hank. He introduces them to Colton and we all go inside.

  The waitresses end up putting three tables together for our group. I sit between Andria and Raine, who are both begging me to tell them what happened in the parking lot today with Caleb.

  “He’s in a band?” Starla exclaims. “How wicked is that!”

  Hank takes his baseball cap off and smoothes his hair. It’s bright orange now, and shaved in a mohawk. “Yep, I’m in the band too.”

  Trista punches him in the arm again.

  “Do you think he went back home?” I ask Hank. He knows I’m talking about Caleb.

  “Yeah. He texted me. He said it didn’t go like he thought it would.”

  “He started texting me when he first got out of jail. I told him then I didn’t want to have anything to do with him.”

  “Our sweet little Natalie, dating a rock star thug?” Starla says. “I would have never guessed!”

  Andria glares at Starla, but I don’t think anyone else notices. I shrug. “I am an onion,” I say. “I have layers.”

  Two waitresses begin taking our orders, each one at opposite ends of the table. Bethany and Ferris are sitting at the far end, with Peter sitting on the other side of Raine.

  Raine makes sure I get the chocolate chip stack. I nudge her. She nudges back. “So Caleb is Natalie’s Evil Ex,” she prods.

  “And there’s really nothing more to the story than that,” I say. “He went to jail for selling drugs and I broke up with him.”

  Everyone at the Athens end of the table grows quiet. None of them will add to the story if I don’t want them to. They won’t mention Winter Oaks or the fact that I had a psychotic break after Caleb gave me ecstasy and I had to go away for my own safety.

  Alex sighs. “Actually it was just possession, but still. Caleb has some growing up to do.”

  I think he feels guilty, that there might have been something he could have done or said to stop Caleb from partying. But Caleb wasn’t ready to stop yet. I still don’t think he’s hit bottom.

  I glance over at David, who winks at me in a very Colton-ish manner. I smile at both of them.

  It gets late and Ferris and Bethany pay their bills and leave. Peter gives Raine such a spectacular goodbye kiss, she decides to leave with him. She hugs me and Starla. “See y’all tomorrow.” She waves at Tris and Andria on her way out, holding Peter’s hand.

  “So, after IHOP, are we all going to go get drunk?” Starla asks. “I know a great place where we can hang out.”

  Colton grins. “I still have the keys to the theater.”

  “And I still have the booze,” Starla says.

  “Booze sounds awesome,” Hank says as he puts his arm around Trista. “We have a hotel room for the night.”

  “That my sister booked for us,” Trista says. “We’re not bringing a party there.”

  “Hanging out in an empty theater sounds like fun,” Andria says. “I’ve heard lots of old Savannah buildings are haunted. Any ghosts?”

  Oh hell.

  Starla grins. And Colton puts his arm around David, who is shaking his head to keep from laughing. “You’ll just have to see for yourself, won’t you?”

  Sometimes Starla and Colton remind me of Team Rocket. Fabulously evil. And I worry for all the poor little Pokémon that get in their way.


  It’s almost midnight by the time we make it back to the theater. Exhausted from the play and all the earlier drama with Caleb and Lucas, now I’m full of pancakes and I’d give anything to just go home and crawl into bed.

  But Andria and Tris are leaving first thing in the morning, and I want to hang out with them as long as possible.

  Colton unlocks the backstage door. Starla digs two bottles out from under her front seat. Vodka and Crown. “Drink machine is down the hall to your left,” Colton says.

  “I wish I still had that ghost hunting equipment,” Starla says, pouting.

  It would totally make my night if we all saw some sort of paranormal activity. It would be nice to think maybe I’m not so crazy after all. But I remember everything I read online. There are no ghosts in this theater. It was all in my head. Although I love Starla for still believing the ghost is here.

  Starla hands me a Diet Dr. Pepper with vodka. “I remembered!” she says, grinning.

  She did. I would feel bad if I turned it down. And it’s been hours since I took my medicine. Surely it won’t hurt. I take a sip and clink my plastic bottle to hers. “Cheers.”

  “This is so cool!” Andria says, looking around the stage. “I’ve never been in an empty theater before.” She and Alex grab sodas, but neither of them take the booze Starla is offering. Tris and Hank do.

  “Since we’re not driving,” Hank says.

  I watch Colton and David pour out half of their sodas in the water fountain and fill their bottles back up with vodka. I frown. Someone is going to have to drive everyone home.

  Not Starla, who’s trying to finish her bottle of Crown all by herself. And definitely not me. Andria has enough on her hands with Hank and Tris. I pull out my phone.

  Obviously alcohol blesses me with stellar judgment. I sit on the side of the stage and call Lucas.

  He answers on the first ring. “What’s wrong?”

  I should tell him why I’ll never forgive Caleb even if I don’t have feelings for him anymore. Tell Lucas that I never should have let him say goodbye to me earlier today (or yesterday, since it’s now after midnight), and that maybe I might be falling in love with him.

  But instead, I just ask, “Can you come back to the theater? David and Colton are too drunk to drive anyone home.”

  “Hell,” he says, with a long sigh. “All right.”

  And he hangs up on me.

  I deserve that. I take another sip of my Dr. Pepper, looking for the courage to say what I need to say when he gets here.

  Starla and Colton are telling everyone about the night we used the Ouija board. Yes, I say, it is a shame that we don’t have the board with us right now. But of course I don’t mean that. A séance might just lead to more hallucinations.

  I keep watching the door, waiting for Lucas to show up. I check it twice, to make sure it’s unlocked, but I don’t want to be waiting in the hallway for him by myself.

  Of course, the third time I go to check the door, he’s just walking in.

  “Oh good, you’re here,” I say, twisting the cap on my bottle. “I’ll just go get the others.”

  “Nat, wait. We need to talk.”

  “I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone else to call. Raine went home with Peter and I didn’t want to bother them. Andria and Alex aren’t drinking, but they’re going to have their hands full with Trista and Hank.”

  “Just how many people are here?” Lucas asks, walking closer to me. We’re standing inches apart now. Close enough to touch, if we wanted.

  “Star, David, Colton, me,” I start listing on my fingers, “Andria, Alex, Hank, and Tris.”

  “Your friend Caleb didn’t stay?” His face is wary. Hopeful.

  “I haven’t seen him since this afternoon. I wish I’d told you about him sooner. But I really have my reasons for
trying to forget he even exists.”

  Lucas stares at me. “Did he hurt you?”

  I stare back, blinking much slower than I normally would. His eyes are so gorgeous.

  Lucas takes the soda bottle out of my hand, rescuing it from my nervous twisting, and sets it down on the ground. Then he takes both of my hands in his. “Nat, is that why you had to go to Winter Oaks? Did he hurt you?”

  I nod, and Lucas pulls me into his arms. But I push him back, shaking my head as I finally realize what he means. “No, he didn’t . . . I mean, we—” I stop myself from telling him yes, Caleb and I had sex, lots of times, but I don’t think he needs to hear that right now. As I look up at him, I’m suddenly wondering about him and Starla, and know they’ve slept together too. And now I don’t want to go back out there in the auditorium where I’ll have to look at her and imagine them touching each other in Lucas’s bed. The thought makes me want to cry.

  Lucas pulls me back to his chest, his hands tangling up in my curls. “I’m sorry, Nat. Whatever he did, it’s none of my business. I shouldn’t have asked.”

  “No, I think you should know,” I say into his shirt sleeve, my fingers curling around the fabric. “You told me your story. You deserve to hear mine.” I take a deep breath. “We were at a bonfire during spring break and Caleb gave me ecstasy. I started hallucinating and I thought I saw something climbing up the side of my house. Or someone.”

  I scared the hell out of my parents that night. They rushed into my bedroom to find me screaming at the top of my lungs about the Spider Person outside my window. Not Spider-Man, because that would have just been silly. But a giant spider that kept calling my name, asking me to open the window.

  Lucas rubs my back and I’m so scared he’s going to run away if I keep talking, but I have to get it all out. “That’s why I ended up at Winter Oaks. So I guess if it weren’t for Caleb and his X, I wouldn’t have met you.”

  “And your grandmother has schizophrenia.”

  I nod. “When my grandfather died, we moved here to help take care of her. She refused to take her meds anymore. I inherited the genes from her, so I probably would have gone psycho one day even without the X, but now I’ll never know.”

  “You’re not psychotic, Nat.” He pulls away from me so I can see his face. His beautiful hazel eyes. “Just a little crazy. But I’m a little crazy too, so don’t you think we belong together?”

  My heart actually does a little dance. I try to make it stop. “You have more than enough on your plate right now. You deserve a sane, grounded person who doesn’t add drama to your life. You need a low-maintenance girlfriend.”

  “Like someone who’s willing to crawl out of bed with a raging hangover and babysit when I’m having a crisis?” He smiles down at me. I smile back, even though I have the tiniest of tears beading up in the corners of my eyes. He spots them and wipes them away with his fingers. His fingers are now covered with glitter.

  “Oh my God, what kind of low maintenance girlfriend makes you leave your sister at home alone in the middle of the night, just so you can rescue her and her drunk friends?” I’m already terrible at this. “You need to get back home to her.”

  He rolls his eyes. “Come home with me. We can leave the rest of these drunks here to fend for themselves.”

  Surely he doesn’t mean what I think he means when he says come home with me, but my heart still speeds up.

  “Nat!” David shouts, poking his head into the hallway. “We’ve been looking all over for you! Who’s out here with you? Did you find your ghost?” He squints his eyes.

  “Yes,” Lucas says in a deep voice. “I’m taking Natalie and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  I hide my face in his shirt to keep from giggling.

  “Shit! Colton!” David shouts.

  “Oh God,” I whisper. “They’re all coming out here now. You’re doomed.”

  I feel Lucas’s laughter in his chest. “Can we take them home now? Then we’ll go back to my house.”

  “Lucas!” Starla squeals when she sees him. “That’s not a ghost, David.”

  Andria pops her head around the corner too, pulling Alex along with her. She raises her eyebrow at me and I give her the slightest nod. Yes, this is my Mr. Someone Else. At least I’d certainly like for him to be.

  I introduce Lucas to my friends from Athens, and Alex rounds up his gang to take them back to their hotel room. Lucas convinces Colton and David we need to take them back to their dorm.

  Starla pouts. “But we still haven’t seen a real ghost. Natalie is certain there’s one here.”

  I frown at her. “I don’t think there is after all. We need to get some sleep before tonight’s show.”

  Colton drags her outside and locks up behind us. “Let us know if Calcifer ever decides to play here in Savannah. We’ll make another night of it.”

  “Or, we could take a road trip to Athens and party up there,” Starla says, putting her arms around Lucas when she sees me move away to hug Trista.

  Alex puts his arm around Andria, as if he’s afraid Starla is going to start grabbing random people. “That sounds great.”

  Andria manages to hug me despite Alex’s grip on her. “Hope we see you again soon!”

  Even Hank hugs me. “Take care, Nat.” He shakes Lucas’s hand. “Nice to meet you, even though I probably won’t remember you in the morning.”

  Lucas shrugs. He laces his fingers into mine. No one notices. “Everyone ready?”

  We have three drunk people to transport. And Lucas shoves them all into the backseat.

  David and Colton get dropped off first at the SCAD dorm.

  Lucas heads back toward his neighborhood. Hope surges in my chest.

  “Shouldn’t you be dropping off Natalie next?” Starla says. She’s lying horizontally across the backseat, now that she has it all to herself. “She lives way over by Forsythe Park.”

  “But she’s not going home,” Lucas says, looking at me.

  I can’t stop the stupidest grin from stretching across my face. I know it’s not the most seductive look, but I can’t help it. He wants me to go home with him. Starla falls off the seat, but doesn’t say anything else. I’m scared she’s going to throw up back there, and Lucas will have to clean it up.

  He pulls up in front in his own driveway. “Wake up, Star. We’re home.”

  She sits up and blinks. I think she’s been crying.

  “Are you okay?” I ask.

  “I’m fine.” She gets out of the car and slams the door shut.

  I watch her stumble across the yard to her house, and we wait in the truck until she gets inside safely.

  Lucas picks up my hand. “Do you mind sleeping over? I’m really tired, and I don’t know if I could drive all the way across town again tonight.” He’s grinning. If I wanted to go home, he would definitely be a gentleman and take me.

  “Are you sure your dad won’t mind?”

  He shrugs. “He won’t notice.”

  I choose not to think about how many times Starla has spent the night over here. Instead I choose to worry about what I’ll say to Mom and Dad in the morning. That I stayed with David at his dorm? He might cover for me. But then again, he might decide to kill Lucas instead.

  I pull my phone out and send him a text. If Mom asks, I’m spending the night w/ U.

  David’s still awake. K.

  A minute later he sends one more text. Tell him 2 use a condom.

  Oh for the love of naked mole rats. I send Mom a quick text telling her I’m at David’s dorm for the night and turn my phone off, blushing. I’m going to get an earful the next time I see my brother. The alcohol buzz I was feeling earlier has long since evaporated. I follow Lucas into his house and down the hallway to his bedroom.

  He kisses me on the lips, briefly, and says, “Stay here.” He goes to the bedroom next door to check on Caitlyn.

  I sit down on his bed, which is indeed bigger than his sister’s, thank goodness. The sheets and plaid comforter s
mell clean. His room is neat. Much neater than I would have expected. A basket of clean clothes sits on the floor at the foot of the bed. I grab the towels on top and begin to fold them out of nervousness.

  He comes back in his room to find I’ve folded half the stuff in the basket. “Seriously? That’s not why I brought you to my lair.”

  “I know,” I sigh, smoothing his already wrinkle-free comforter with my hand. “It was so I could make you breakfast, right?”

  He takes the clothes and puts them back in the basket carefully before sitting down next to me. “Of course.” He leans his head closer. His lips are inches away from mine. “I like my eggs scrambled.”


  Lucas pushes me back against his pillows gently. He lies between my legs, I lie between his arms, and we can’t stop kissing.

  “Are we going too fast?” he asks, his fingers gently sliding under my shirt, under my bra straps. My skin is scorched from his touch.

  “Lucas Grant, I’ve wanted to kiss you since the day you delivered pizza to my house.”

  “Just kissing?” He smiles and my world rocks. His hands slide down my arms, over my hips. “And how long have you wanted to do this with me?”

  I touch his face, push his beautiful blond hair out of his eyes. “Since I saw you in that skimpy little Hercules costume.”

  His eyes light up. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you in that dress. Do you know how hard it was to remember my lines during the dress rehearsal?”

  “And you went to so much trouble to help me remember mine!”

  “That wasn’t any trouble.” He smiles and only stops kissing me when he reaches over on his nightstand for a tiny square package. “Any excuse I can find to touch you, to be close to you, I’ll take it.”

  Everything this boy says—everything he does—takes my breath away. “You don’t need any excuses,” I tell him. “I’m right here.”

  “Yes, you are.” His fingers trace shapes on my skin. I shiver, even though I’m not cold.

  I pull his head down to mine. And we show each other everything we’ve been wanting to do to each other.

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