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Callie wanted to lick her lips, as she did whenever she got nervous. She’d put on strawberry chapstick just minutes before so she had to be careful. If she licked them she’d lick the chapstick off and she didn’t think she’d be able to reapply without being obvious about it. Instead, she clenched her fists and let her nails dig into her palms. Thinking of them suddenly made her conscious of the fact that her nails were bare. She had been in such a rush that there hadn’t been time for everything she wanted. It was only dumb luck that she’d still had chapstick in her backpack. In July.
She bent over to check herself in her driver’s side mirror one last time out of sheer nervousness. Her wavy black hair still looked right, with a big curl that washed over her forehead and covered half of her face; a carefully orchestrated mess, with exactly the right number of strands providing cover. She had on her best black bra, and it was doing its darndest to give the impression of something she normally didn’t have a whole lot of. She’d pulled off a specific kind of casual that only looked casual at first glance, and that had taken a lot of frantic effort mostly while driving.
It was unlike her to be so flustered and off balance, but the stakes were sky high.
It was day twenty-seven of a brutal heat wave and Callie was tempted to sip from her water bottle, but again she held off. There were numerous trees along the concrete walkway between her car and the front door, and the slight breeze was just strong enough to take the edge off. Her white tee clung to her skin, and she regretted having brought the light flannel shirt even if it was only tied around her waist. She hoped that her skinny black jeans and low chucks made the right impression.
The door opened as she was just taking the first step up to the porch, and her stomach leaped directly into her throat.
“Callie,” Echo cried, as she jumped out.
“Hey,” was all Callie managed before the redhead barrelled into her.
“I know it’s only been a couple weeks, but it felt like a lot more!”
“Yeah.” After a moment she returned the hug, and her eyes drifted closed. “A lot more.”
“I’ve missed you!”
“Missed you too,” Callie murmured. That hug seemed to stretch on forever. She tucked her head into Echo’s shoulder, burying her face in red locks, and was surrounded by the smell of her. It was intoxicating.
For a moment.
“Hey Callie,” came a flat voice from the door.
Callie’s eyes narrowed as she looked up, and the intoxicating high all but vanished. A tall boy in a gray t-shirt, handsome in his way, leaned against the door and gave an unamused smirk.
“Hey Trevor,” she said, her calm voice belying the unrest within.
“Come on in,” Echo said eagerly. “God, you smell like strawberries. I love strawberries!”
I know, Callie thought bitterly, and she finally gave in to the urge to lick her lips. God, I’m so stupid. Trevor held the door for both of them, but it felt like his gaze held a bit more contempt when she passed by.
“When you said you’d be right over,” Echo laughed, “you weren’t kidding!”
Callie laughed too, and ran her fingers through her shoulder-length hair. “Yeah,” she added belatedly. Her confidence teetered on the brink. “Well… I was nearby.” That was a lie, but she didn’t think that there was any way either of them would call her on it. “It’s just nice to be in out of the heat.”
“Hey,” Trevor said. “Do you have any on you?”
“Trev!” Echo gave him a meaningful look and cocked her head. “Come on! Can you, like, give it a minute? She just walked in the door!”
“We’ve got shit to plan,” he said, unimpressed. “Better to be upfront about it just in case.”
“I… don’t,” Callie said, shrinking in on herself. “I’m sorry. I don’t really sell anymore.”
Trevor cursed and rolled his eyes. Echo looked embarrassed.
“I still have my contact though,” she said, reluctantly. “How much do you need?”
“Whatever three hundred will get us.”
Callie was pretty sure she did a bad job of hiding her surprise. “Oh. Wow.”
“It’s not all for us,” Echo added quickly. “We came over here to see if my parents had any, and they didn’t. When I told them I was going to try to buy from you, they asked me to get some for them too.” Then she smiled, and Callie’s world got a little bit brighter. “They said to say hi.”
“Are they here?” she asked, but Echo shook her head.
“They were on their way out when we got here.”
When we got here, Callie repeated in her head, putting two and two together. They arrived together, and they probably spent the night together someplace else. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
As if sensing Callie’s discomfort, Echo gently pulled her toward the couch and sat down with a big smile. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine,” she said, emotionlessly. She was uncomfortably aware of Trevor’s eyes on her, so she pulled out her phone. “I’m texting my friend, okay? Probably won’t take long.”
“Come on,” Echo urged. “You’ve Beylikdüzü escort gotta give me more than that. How did your finals go?”
She shrugged and stared back at her friend. “Mostly A’s.”
“Yeah.” She bit her lip for a moment. “Seemed like once I got some of my priorities sorted out, it wasn’t so bad. I wish I’d started in the fall, at the same time you did, but still. Better late than never. I want to get out of community college though. Started thinking about transferring in a semester or two.” Then she trailed off and looked down. “You know, somewhere else, but we’ll see. Gotta keep my grades up first.”
“Ohh!” Echo squealed. “If you got into A&M, we could get an apartment off campus together!”
“Yeah,” she said, smiling but staring down absently. “Maybe.”
“We used to talk about living together all the time,” Echo said, leaning back so she could fill Trevor in. “We’d make up all these crazy floor plans. We had a special room set aside for our crowns, one just for kissing boys, and one that was supposed to look like a completely normal living room to hide the trap door that went down—”
“The special kitchen just for snacks,” said Callie , nodding. “Yeah.”
Trevor’s voice came from the kitchen as he opened the fridge. “How many boys are you planning to kiss, Callie?”
“Hey,” Echo said defensively. “Come on. We made those plans when we were, like, ten.”
“I’m just saying,” he said, holding up his hands in innocence. Both hands held beer bottles. “Plus, didn’t you know you were a lesbian in, like, third grade?”
Callie wanted to melt into the sofa and disappear, but neither of them seemed to notice her shrinking.
“You can be a real jerk, you know that? And no, I don’t want one. It’s like ten in the morning!”
“They’re both for me,” he said with a smirk, as he headed for the back porch.
She waited for the doors to slide shut before saying, “Asshole. Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay,” Callie said softly. “So you two are back together?”
“No,” Echo answered quickly, though she looked away when she did. “Not really.”
She laughed bitterly, but tried to keep the bite out of it. “What does not really mean?”
“I don’t know. It’s complicated.” She wrapped her arms around her middle and leaned back into the couch, sinking into the plush cushions as she did. “We’ve been spending a lot of time together now that we’re both back for the summer, but I know that he was with some other girls at Tech.”
Callie didn’t say anything, and after a moment Echo continued.
“We were broken up. I don’t know why I’m mad about it. It’s not like I was a virgin either, but… then we come home and he wants to just pick right back up. Hanging out every day. I don’t know. It’s not a good feeling to be… convenient.”
“Did you tell him that?”
Echo shook her head. Suddenly her black band tee looked huge on her, and she looked like the insecure little girl she’d been when they were much younger. She used to hide behind Callie all the time. Of course, Callie thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world, but she’d never quite managed to say as much.
Trevor had. Callie and Trevor had never really been friends, but it had gotten much frostier between them since he and Echo started dating freshman year.
Echo cleared her throat and sat up a little straighter. “How about you? How is Shayne?”
Callie shook her head. “We broke up.”
“Oh,” she said quietly. “Really?”
“It was time,” Callie lied. “We’re different people now.”
“That’s… good,” Echo said, hesitantly. “I’m glad.”
“You’re glad that we broke up?”
Echo shook her head, and then made a non-committal noise while smiling apologetically. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I guess, if you’re happy it’s over then I’m happy for you.”
Callie nodded, and cast about for a change of topic. “So, what’s the occasion?”
Echo blinked. “Oh! Um, Jason”— she paused, with a nod, to let Callie catch up —”is enlisting with the Marines. He’s off to Basic tomorrow. We’re kind of… getting the band back together today for one last big one.”
“I see.” Callie bit her lip and smiled. She’d never really been a member of that group.
“You should totally come!”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll have to check my schedule. I might be busy that day.”
“Oh my god shut up,” Echo said, laughing. “Please? I really want you to be there.” She reached over and took Callie’s hand.
“Okay,” Callie whispered. A whisper was all she could manage. For a long minute, it was quiet, and it was so hard not to let herself believe that the contact between them was what she hoped it was. She knew it wasn’t, but the lie was so beautiful. Echo’s hand was soft.
“I, um…” Echo cleared her throat and smiled. “I know I’ve said it before, but I really appreciate you visiting so much last semester. I was going out of my mind a little bit, and… and you coming down was…” She trailed off and looked down with Beylikdüzü escort a smile. “I’m sure you had other things you could have spent your weekends on, but… thank you.”
“No problem,” Callie said flatly.
Echo peered at her for a moment, and then smiled and tapped Callie’s forehead twice. “Knock, knock.”
“I’m here,” Callie said, answering the question she knew was coming.
The door to the porch slid open, and Echo withdrew her hand at the same time.
“Any word?” Trevor said, as he poked his head through.
Callie stared at him blankly for a minute, and then looked down at her phone. The little light on it pulsed green, indicating she had an unread message.
“No,” she said hesitantly. “Not yet.”
He sighed dramatically and went back outside.
“I’m glad you’re gonna come,” Echo said, as soon as the door was closed.
Callie looked back and forth between the door and her hand, and nodded. “Yeah,” she said tiredly. “It’ll be just like old times.”
Echo smiled brightly, apparently having missed the tone of her voice, and nodded. “We’re gonna hook up with Jason in a little bit. If your… um… contact hasn’t gotten back to you, you should totally come with!”
“Where are you guys going?”
“Batting cages,” she said, rolling her eyes, “and then lunch. Please come? I need you to keep me sane.”
Despite everything, it was impossible for Callie not to hear that as I need you. “Okay,” she croaked. “Sure.”
“Whoa,” Jason said, excitedly, as she got out of her car. “Hi Callie!”
Callie waved nervously, surprised to be so put on the spot, and her shoulders unconsciously curled inwards.
Trevor and Echo pulled up right behind her, and Jason immediately turned to them as they got out and spoke with the same fervor. “Even the wallflowers are showing up? How many people are coming to this friggin’ party?”
“Tons, bro.” Trevor and Jason exchanged a complicated handshake while Callie and Echo rolled their eyes at each other. “Tons.”
“Epic! Turtle and Eddie are already inside getting some lanes set up,” Jason said. Then he paused and looked back over his shoulder. “Though, I guess we’ll need one more helmet?”
Callie held her hands up in front of herself and shook her head. “I’m just here for the ambiance.” Next to her, Echo dissolved into giggles.
“Hey whatever. You comes out, and that’s what I appreciates about you.”
“Is that what you appreciate about her?” Echo asked. Everyone snickered but Callie. She felt very left out, but tried not to show it.
A minute later, the two of them were seated in an unused batting lane while the four boys swung their sticks. Eddie and Turtle had never had much to do with either of them, but the two had been on the baseball team with Trevor and Jason.
“He’s always had a crush on you, you know,” Echo said, leaning over so as not to be heard. She lit a cigarette and offered it to her.
Callie took it, gently wrapped her lips around the filter, and shivered. It didn’t mean anything by itself— it was just a bit of paper and tobacco —but it had touched her lips. Callie’s skin tingled, and she took one slow puff before she gave it back. “Jason’s a good guy.”
“Booyah!” Turtle cried. “Crushed that one!”
She shrugged and leaned back on her elbows. “He talks like a bro, but he always seemed really nice.”
Echo reached her arms under her thighs and knitted her fingers together. “Well of course he was nice to you!”
“Not just to me,” Callie said, rolling her eyes. “He was nice to everyone. He was thoughtful, and he stood up for kids.” She bit her lip for a minute and looked over. “I hope he doesn’t lose that.”
At that moment, Jason hit one so hard that the bat made a deafening crack, and the ball became lodged within the chain link fence. He smiled broadly to a round of cheers.
“He’ll be fine,” Echo said.
“It’s weird to sit here talking about it.” She looked over at Echo and frowned. “You know? Like, he’s someone we grew up with. I might always see the doofy kid from down the street who still took the crust off his bread in freaking middle school, but he’s going off to…” She trailed off and shook her head. “It’s weird.”
“Are you gonna miss him?”
“I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t come today, no, but now?” Callie shrugged. “Now I’ll probably always think of him as the first of us to grow up and do something.”
“Home run,” Trevor said casually, after hitting one so hard that Callie felt it in her teeth.
“Can confirm!” Eddie shouted.
“Big shoots!” Turtle added emphatically.
“Poppin’ mad dingers, bro!”
“Do you ever…” Echo trailed off and stared down at her ankle. “Do you ever wonder what might have happened if you and him… you know… like if you weren’t… um…”
Callie opened her mouth to answer, and the words died on her tongue. The honest answer was no, but that wasn’t the answer she wanted to give Echo. Callie had never Escort Beylikdüzü had much of an interest in boys, even when she was very young, but she wanted to believe that Echo was thinking about her, or the idea of being with her, or the idea of being different than she was, and so Callie said, “Sometimes.”
Echo nodded, smiling tightly, but it turned Callie’s stomach to have lied.
The mid-day sun in North Texas was as brutal as it had ever been. Echo put on a pair of Risky Business-style sunglasses and leaned back, her long red-orange hair fluttering in the breeze and periodically blowing over smooth, freckled cheeks. She was thin and pretty, and her legs were on display in a pair of short shorts and unlaced tennis shoes. It was very like her to look so light and easy, and effortlessly cool. It killed Callie a little on the inside not to be able to admire her the way she wanted to. They’d been best friends since the age of seven. Echo had been the first person she’d come out to, and the one constant thing in Callie’s life. Even through her parents divorce, when it felt like everything else was falling apart around her, Callie had always had someplace she could go and feel safe.
All of that hung in the balance. Any attempt to move beyond being friends risked everything, and yet it felt like not saying anything about how she felt tainted what remained. If she wasn’t and couldn’t be honest with her best friend, then were they? It wasn’t the first time she’d run that circle until she was dizzy, but something about the events of the day was adding a sense of immediacy and finality to it.
“I’m gonna go get some water,” Callie said, after a few minutes of silence.
“I’ll come,” Echo replied brightly. Then she turned to the boys and shouted, “We’re going to get some water. Do you want anything?”
Callie had to suppress a sigh. Her friend meant well, but what had started as her getting a minute to herself was going to turn into a supply run.
Fortunately, Trevor looked around and made a grunting sound. “You know what, babe? I think we’re almost done here. You degens up for some lunch?”
The other guys gave a chorus of agreement, and Callie sat back down to wait. She didn’t miss it when Trevor gave her a sidelong glance. Great.
Callie picked at her salad quietly while the gathering at the tables around her carried on five conversations in which only two different stories were being told. Echo tried to pull her into it a few times, asking pointed questions about moments Callie had been present for and trying to draw her out of her shell, but Callie was well-practiced in the art of answering a question in such a way that asking follow-ups was hard.
The lunch rush had cleared out around them, meaning they had the run of the diner. The waitress gave her sympathetic looks every time she tried to speak up about something she needed and someone else talked over her, but that had been her whole life. Callie felt worse for the waitress, who had to stay on her toes with ten of them ordering the left half of the menu in waves.
Her dealer had gotten back to her almost immediately when she’d texted them earlier, but Callie had played for time and lived to regret it. Echo sat across the table while Trevor sat next to her with his arm around her, and old wounds opened up worse than they ever had. It didn’t matter how many times she’d been told not to fall for a straight girl, or how many times she’d tried to ignore the way she felt. The longer she sat there, the more it hurt.
“Oh hey,” she croaked, as she looked down into her lap. “They got back to me.”
“Can they cover three hundred?” Trevor asked.
When Callie nodded, the table around her erupted in a chorus of aww yeah’s, a smattering of high fives, and someone chanting dank over and over.
“I’m gonna…” She jerked her head, pointed with her eyes, and stood up to a round of applause. Everyone looked some form of excited or happy. Everyone except Echo. Callie tried smiling extra wide as she turned but she knew she hadn’t fooled her friend, so she hurried. She almost made it to her car.
“Callie?” Echo called, as she slipped out into the parking lot. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she lied, only turning just enough to glance at her friend from the corner of her eye. “I’ll be back.” She wiped at her eyes, hoping she’d caught the tears before her cheeks turned splotchy. “At Trevor’s house, right?”
“Callie, come on. You’re not fine.”
“I’ll be back with your fucking weed, all right?”
Echo took her hand from behind, and the foundation of her world started to crumble.
“Please talk to me.”
Callie clenched her hands into fists, ripped free from Echo’s grasp, and turned around.
Shayne sat on the steps of her apartment, and frowned as she looked up from her phone. “You look like shit,” she said.
Callie slammed the car door shut and fired back, “I’m not in the mood,” as she stormed up the walk.
“Whoa. Friendly fire. You called me, remember?”
“Whatever. Let’s just go inside?”
Shayne remained seated for a long moment, staring up with a scrunched expression, and then stood slowly. Callie saw the hug coming just before it engulfed her, and she sighed in irritation.
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