The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried(2)

“I get it—”

“It’s not that I don’t want to see you—”

“Of course, of course.”

This time there’s no electricity in the silence. No expectation. Instead, it’s a void. A chasm growing wider with each passing second. I know I should throw Rafi a line before the distance between us expands too far, but I don’t know what to say.

“My offer stands,” Rafi says.

I sigh heavily without meaning to. “If I change my mind about the party—”

“Not the party. The funeral. If you want me to go with you, I will.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Have you ever seen me in my black suit?” he asks. “I look like James Bond. But, you know, browner.”

I can’t help laughing because it’s impossible to tell whether Rafi’s bragging or begging for compliments. “While the thought of you doing your best sexy secret agent impersonation is tempting, I think I need to go to the funeral alone.”

Rafi squeezes my shoulders and says, “Yeah, okay,” before finishing with the sunscreen. Funerals are awful, especially if you don’t know the person who’s died, but I can’t help feeling like Rafi’s disappointed.

“Come on,” I say. “I probably need to get home soon.” I pull Rafi the way he pulled me earlier, but instead of following, he digs his feet into the sand. His lips are turned down, and he’s looking at the ground instead of at my face.

I covertly glance around to make sure no one’s watching, and then I brush his cheek with my thumb and kiss him. “Fine. I’ll consider coming tonight.”

Rafi’s face brightens immediately. He goes from pouty lips to dimples and smiles in under a second. “Really?”

“Maybe,” I say.

“Maybe closer to yes or maybe closer to no?”

This time when I kiss him, I don’t care if we’ve got an audience. “Maybe if you agree to go with me to Kennedy Space Center before the end of the summer, I’ll think real hard about making an appearance.”

Rafi turns up his nose. “But I went there in middle school, and it’s so boring.”

“Compromise is the price you pay for being my boyfriend.”

“Fine.” Rafi rolls his eyes dramatically. “But this relationship is getting pretty expensive.”

“You’re rich. You can afford it.” I grab his hand. “Now, let’s get out of here before I change my mind.”


I’M SITTING AT THE KITCHEN table trying to eat dinner when my mom stomps into the room and twirls. “Think this is okay for dinner with the Kangs tonight?” She’s wearing a black dress with a fitted corset top that accentuates her curvy hips, black fishnet stockings, and combat boots, and she even straightened her platinum blond hair for the occasion. Both of her arms are covered in tattoos depicting scenes from her favorite comic books.

“Are you taking them to a club in the 1990s?”

“Smartass.” My mom’s basically goth Peter Pan, but I admire her devotion to the Church of Monochromism.

“Kidding. You look nice.”

Mom smiles and kisses the top of my head. “What’re you doing?”

I hold up my spoon. “Eating dinner.”

“Cereal is not dinner.”

“Then I’m eating a meal that’s not dinner but will take the place of dinner tonight.”

“You were supposed to get your dad’s sense of humor and my sense of fashion, not the reverse.”

I glance at my outfit. I’d showered and changed into a T-shirt and jean shorts when I got home from the beach. “Are you criticizing my style?”

Mom pats my cheek. “Kid, the way you dress isn’t style in the same way that cereal isn’t dinner.”

“Ouch,” I say. “This coming from the woman who believes that all clothes, shoes, and makeup should come in one and only one color.”

“Hey! I have a blue dress up there.” Mom taps her chin. “Somewhere.” I’m hoping she’s going to disappear the way she came, but she pulls out a chair and sits across from me. “How you holding up?”

“I’d be better if people would stop asking me that.”

“July was your best friend.”

“Was,” I say. “But she’s been dead to me for a year, so can you drop it?” My left fist starts trembling, and I have to drop my spoon because I didn’t realize I was gripping it so tightly. These last few days it feels like everyone’s waiting for me to melt down, and I’m starting to think they’re not going to leave me alone until I do. But, no. I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of doing the thing they presume is inevitable. “I’m fine.”

Mom watches me for a moment and then nods. “After . . . everything’s done, I could use your help in the office. We’ve got Mr. Alire out there now, and Mrs. Lunievicz is being transported over tomorrow.”

“I already have a summer job.”

“Bussing tables at a diner isn’t a job.”

My eyebrows dip as I frown. “I spend a set amount of time at a place performing tasks dictated to me by a supervisor in exchange for an established wage.” I pause and look up. “Sounds like the definition of a job to me.”

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