~ Hayley ~
“Hayley, sweetheart, you’re going to be late!” my grandmother calls up the stairs. Of course, I know this, but try explaining the concept of time to a two year old. Ari wriggles in my grasp, trying to crawl away from me while I pull a little pink sundress over her head.
“Just a sec, Gama,” I shout back. “Ari’s being difficult.”
I smile down at my daughter’s face and her answering giggle makes my heart flip. “What’s so funny, monkey pants?” I ask teasingly. “You like giving me a hard time, don’t you?” Her brown eyes brighten at the sound of my voice and she giggles again, waving her little fingers in the air. Until five minutes ago, I was nervous about today, but somehow Ari and her silliness have managed to ease my anxiety. It’s the first day I’ll be without her since she was born and as much as I’m dreading it, I know it’s time for me to restart the future I put on hold when I found out I was pregnant. Most girls my age would’ve given their baby up for adoption, knowing they’re not ready to be a mother at the tender age of seventeen. But I’m not one of those girls. Despite the circumstances surrounding the untimely conception of my daughter, I made the choice to live with the consequences of my actions and refused to regret a single moment of my life. Looking at the little face that so closely resembles mine; I find it impossible to wish that my situation was any different.
“Okay, Princess Ari,” I say, slipping a pair of soft, white shoes onto Ari’s feet. “Let’s get going before mommy’s late for school.” I stand up, lifting Ari onto my hip and grab her bag. I make sure she has everything she’ll need before heading downstairs and into the kitchen.
“There are my beautiful girls,” my grandmother chimes. She smiles at us and her eyes wrinkle at the sides. If I didn’t know any better I’d think she was a normal old lady, but underneath that facade is whole lot of batshit crazy. Not that I mind. My grandmother has been my rock, my best friend and the only support I’ve had over the last two years. Without her, I have no idea where Ari and I would be.
“Are you ready for your first day of daycare, Arianna?” my grandmother coos. She closes the distance between us, reaching for Ari, and I let her go. “Gama,” Ari squeals delightfully. She mumbles something incoherently and I stifle a laugh when my grandmother responds as if they’re having a normal conversation. I leave the kitchen to grab my school bag, stopping in the hallway when I see a framed picture of my parents hanging on the wall. My father looks younger, happier, and my mother has the same sour expression on her face that I got used to seeing. Part of me misses them, but I push those feelings away quicker than they surface. They have no place in my life, especially after how I left things when I moved away in my senior year of high school. I shake my head, as if it will clear the past from my mind, and take my school bag from the bottom of the stairs. It’s my first day of college but I’m more nervous about Ari’s first day of daycare.
“Hayley Tanner, if you don’t hurry your ass up, you’re going to be late for school,” my grandmother chides behind me. Ari slips past her and comes running down the hallway, jumping straight into my arms.
“Huwwy youw ass up, momma.” she says.
“Arianna, don’t say ‘ass’,” I reply sternly, giving my grandmother a look. If we’re not careful, Ari repeats everything we say, including the occasional cuss word my grandmother lets slip when she’s mad.
“Sowwy momma.” Ari ducks her head into my shoulder. I kiss her head of brown curls and inhale her sweet scent. It’s one of the most comforting things about this little miracle, the way she smells and the way she fits into my arms so perfectly. We say goodbye to my grandmother and as soon as I start the quick drive to Ari’s new daycare center, she starts singing in the backseat. I watch her in the mirror as her little voice fills the car. Her happiness is infectious, and when her face lights up with hope and love, it’s easy to forget how she got here. But I will never forget. It’s a night that changed my life forever and a night I’m not sure I can bring myself to regret…
~ 2 years ago, December 2011, Senior year ~
I walk into the palatial mansion and immediately feel out of place. There are people filling every open area I can see. Some stand around talking, their blue cups filled with cheap beer, while others gyrate against each other to the rhythm of the music. I can feel the vibration of the music in my chest as it travels through the crowd in waves. I shouldn’t be here, and my mind won’t stop telling me to leave. But I can’t. I push my way through the mob of hot, sweaty bodies until I’m standing in the living room. Heads bob up and down as a new, faster song starts to play through the speakers. Looking around, I notice how the guys in the room eye my body with appreciation, no doubt after hearing the rumors that have surfaced at school. The girls on the other hand look at me with disgust, muttering the word ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ under their breaths. They’re half right. But I don’t owe them an explanation for my lewd behavior. I don’t owe anyone anything really;least of all insight into my sad, black hole of a life. I’m about to make my way back towards the front door, with every intention of leaving, when a familiar voice stops me.
“You came,” he says behind me. I turn around and come face-to-face with Kyle Henderson. The playboy. The football captain. And the boy I’ve been crushing on since I was twelve. He’s only a year older than I am, but his chiseled jaw, high cheekbones and light blonde stubble make him look far more mature than any other boy his age. And I use the term ‘boy’ loosely; referring only to the parts of him that, in fact, make him a boy. Kyle is a man, albeit a walking cliché with his perfect blonde hair, Adonis-like physique and roguish charm. He’s also trouble. And I happen to be in the mood for trouble.
“You asked me to,” I reply. A strange feeling washes over me, resembling something close to shyness. It’s unfamiliar. I don’t do shy, least of all with guys. But Kyle makes me feel it, however unwelcome it is.
“Funny,” he says. “I didn’t peg you for someone who does what she’s told, Hayls.” His lips curve into a smirk and it’s easy to see why the girls at school fall over themselves when they’re in his presence. His confident persona is disarming. I lift my chin, hoping that he can’t see the cracks in my superficial confidence. “I don’t.”
Taking a step closer, he stares into my eyes. “I’m glad you came,” he says. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Anything but beer.”
He chuckles. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
I nod. When he disappears into the swell of people, I feel eyes burning a hole in the side of my head. I turn slightly, only to catch Kimber Allen glaring at me. I can’t help the smile that slips onto my face. I know she was watching my exchange with Kyle and judging by her expression, she isn’t happy about it. Good. Maybe now she’ll shut those botox lips of hers and stop spreading rumors about me. Or just stop spreading the false ones, at least. It’s no secret that she hates me, or that she has made the most of my self-destructive behavior and used it to her benefit. But I can’t blame her. I’ve brought all of it on myself, willingly, in an attempt to ease the numbness that has consumed me and feel something, even if it’s just physical.
I look away just in time to see Kyle walking back towards me, drink in hand. My eyes travel the length of him. His blue polo shirt fits him well and shows off some of his best assets. Broad shoulders, defined chest, strong arms. The designer jeans he’s wearing hugs his legs and I’m sure if he had to turn around, it would show off another one of his ass-ets. I snicker at my inside joke.
“What’s so funny?” he asks, amused. Realizing he heard me makes me blush, but I manage to keep it cool. “Your ex-girlfriend.” I reply, taking the blue cup from his grasp. I bring it up to my lips, tasting the harsh liquid and feeling it burn all the way down my throat. It’s disgusting. But after the third or fourth cup I won’t taste it anymore.
Kyle frowns. “I didn’t even know Kimber was here,” he lies easily. Of course he knows. Kimberwould have made sure of it.
I shrug. Bringing my cup back to my lips, I watch Kyle over the rim as I take another gulp, and another, until it’s finished. Kyle’s eyes never leave mine and when he licks his lips I have to stop myself from mimicking him.
“You want another one?” he asks, taking our empty cups and placing them on a nearby table. Instead of answering, I step closer, liquid courage coursing through my veins, and take his hand.
“Dance with me,” I say softly. His hand tightens around mine and he leads us onto the makeshift dance floor in the middle of the giant living room. Eyes fall on us and I tense. The attention I’mused to getting is usually the kind that takes place behind closed doors, or in the backseat of a car, not in public. I feel Kyle’s chest pressed firmly against my back.
“Relax,” he breathes against my neck. “Let go.”
His hands rest on my hips and the way his fingertips press into my skin makes me shiver. Our bodies start moving, our hips bumping and grinding to the beat of the music. I push my ass into Kyle’s crotch and rub it back and forth over his growing hard on. He sucks in a breath, and I stifle a moan. This is what I want. I crave the physical connection like lungs crave air. One song bleeds into another and we keep dancing until the room gets hot and my skin is damp. Brushing my dark hair to the side, Kyle lowers his head until his lips brush against my ear.
“Let’s go upstairs,” he whispers. My head is swimming, from both, the alcohol I’ve had and my need to get lost in this carnal connection. “I want you, Hayley,” he breathes into my ear. “I’ve wanted you for so long.”
I turn around to face him. His eyes are dark, determined. I’m fairly certain he just said that to get into my pants but I can’t judge him for that. I’m planning on using him for the same thing. “Okay,” I say. I ignore the pang in my chest. I always feel that way before.
Kyle grabs my hand and starts pulling me through the mass of people, which seems to have doubled since I arrived. The clock on the wall reads 11pm but I doubt the party will abate any time soon. Guys stop to talk to Kyle but he brushes them off, the same way he does to the girls who throw themselves at him. He leads me up the marble staircase and only lets my hand go when we reach his bedroom door. He ushers me into his room, his hand on the small of my back, and closes the door. With every step he takes towards me I feel the sexual tension intensify. For a brief second Kyle hesitates, and I can see the indecision in his eyes and on his face. He seems to recover from whatever conflict he felt a second ago because he closes the gap between us in one stride. The silence between us stretches and I think we both know words are not necessary. Talking would only make it awkward, forcing us to pretend that this is more than a simple exchange. He only asked me to come to this party for one reason, why make it something it isn’t?
He swallows, leaning down until his soft lips brush against mine. His tongue leaves a blazing trail on my bottom lip and I open up, welcoming him. Our lips move against each other, our tongues twisting as we taste each other. I taste the beer on his breath but the anticipation of feeling with only my body overshadows it. His hands grab my hips roughly as he pushes me onto his bed. He climbs over me, his lips crashing into mine again. I claw at his clothes, our hands removing every piece of fabric, every barrier, until we’re both naked. Like all the times before this, I push all emotions away, focusing on nothing but the physical.
“Fuck,” Kyle breathes harshly. “I don’t think I have a condom.”
I think about it for a minute. I’ve never had sex without one but I’ve often wondered what it felt like. I’m on the pill, so we should be fine. A voice pops up in my head telling me what a bad idea this is but I reason with it, arguing that, with graduation around the corner, this gets to be one last hooray. After tonight, I will get to start over and pretend that the last year of my life hasn’t been filled with parties and meaningless sex. I never have to see Kyle or anyone else from this wretched, soul sucking place ever again. So why not go out with a bang. Literally.
“It’s okay,” I say. “We’re good.”
“But I’ve never gone without one,” he contends.
I look him in the eye. “Neither have I. But I’m on the pill, so we’re good.”
He settles between my legs and I feel the tip of his cock tease my entrance. “Tell me you want this,” Kyle breathes heavily with gritted teeth. “Tell me you want me to do this to you.”
“Yes,” I breathe. I bite my lip and close my eyes when I feel him push in. I wrap my legs around him and he lowers himself onto me. I welcome the weighty feeling, and the fullness. Kyle doesn’t look at me as he thrusts deeper and deeper. He tucks his face into my neck and I find that I don’t mind it. This is all I wanted. It helps me forget about the parents who don’t love me and only use me as a pawn when they see fit. I can’t even say I’m a trophy daughter anymore, because I made sure to ruin that image good and proper. Maybe I am a slut, or a whore, but when it’s nothing but my body connecting with another, everything else fades away. I’ve managed to replace emotional things like affection and love with the feeling of sexual and physical gratification. It’s fucked up. But it works for me.
Kyle quickens his pace, his hot breath fanning the inside of my neck. His muscles tense and I know he’s close. Lifting his weight slightly, I take the chance to slip my hand between our bodies and start rubbing my clit. The quicker Kyle moves his hips, the quicker my hand moves, and it’s not long before we both moan our release.
“Fuck, Hayley,” Kyle sighs, rolling off me and catching his breath. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so…”
“Good?” I finish for him. “What? You didn’t ask your buddies how it is before you invited mehere?” I sit up quickly and grab the nearest item of clothing to cover myself up.
His brows furrow. “No, Hayls. Do you think that’s why I invited you? So that I could just have sex with you?”
“Yes.” I reply honestly. Kyle looks away from me and I know I’ve caught him.
“Look, Hayley, I -” I put my hand up, interrupting him mid-sentence.
“Don’t, Kyle. I know the drill. I used you just as much as you used me and now it’s over.”
I jump off the bed and start gathering my clothes. Kyle doesn’t move from the bed while I dress, but when I look up again he’s standing in front of me, wearing only his jeans.
“Hayley, wait.” he pleads. His expression is one of guilt. But guilt over what exactly? Having sex with me or admitting that it’s all he wanted me for?
I see another emotion flit across his features but it’s gone before I can determine what it is. Our eyes meet for the last time and I do something I’ve never done with anyone else before. I touch his cheek. And then his lips. “Goodbye, Kyle.” I whisper. I’m not sure why I say it, or why I touch his face that way, but for the first time ever I feel something else, something new.
Horns break through the memory and I jump in my seat. The traffic light in front of me is green but I was too distracted to notice. I ease forward into the traffic, ignoring the swearwords being thrown in my direction by other drivers. I check my rearview mirror again, to make sure Ari is okay, and find her staring out the window, still singing her song. I’m silently grateful that the only reminder I have of her father is her brown eyes and that her dark curls and fair skin come from me. Not that it would’ve mattered. The day she was born I knew I would love her forever, regardless of who she looks like.
I stop in the small parking lot outside the daycare center and take a deep breath to steel my nerves. I don’t want Ari to see how terrified I am. I want her to see that I’m brave, even if that’s the last thing I feel. I climb out and open Ari’s door. She looks up at me and smiles, all her new teeth on full display. “You ready to make some new friends, monkey?” I ask her while unbuckling her car seat.
Her eyes widen, filling with excitement and curiosity. “Yes mommy! You’re a monkey!” she squeals, giggling.
I let out a little laugh. “Oh, really? If I’m a monkey, then what are you?”
Her little eyebrows scrunch before she answers. “I’m a princess,” she proclaims. I take her bag from the back seat and pull her onto my hip.
“Yes,” I reply softly, placing a kiss on her forehead. “You’re my little princess.”
About the Author
I'm 21 years old & the ultimate Book Brat :) Coffee & Books are my drugs of choice, neither of which will be kicked to the curb any time soon! I go through a book a day & when I'm not reading I'm working on my debut novel, Beneath Your Beautiful :)I'm a sucker for New Adult Contemporary Romance with a whole lot of sexy thrown in & my number one rule is I won't read a book unless it has a happy ending! I also have the unhealthiest obsession with theSouth,and I don't mean my home country of South Africa - I mean cowboys, pick up trucks, sexy as sin Southern accents, cowboy boots and barefoot bluejean nights! One day, I will live in Alabama & I will have my own Indie publishing house - my philosophy is if your dreams don't scare you they're not big enough :)