Crushed Page 9

And the latter suits them pretty much all of the time.

Anyway, the point is … us “kids” of Cedar Grove? Unless it’s a cushy internship, not many of us go the summer-job route during our college years.

Most of our parents do the token “It’ll be good for you to get a real job,” and in response we do the token application to the movie theaters and the lone ice cream shop, but they have only so much room for the June–September workforce, and most of the jobs are snatched up early by people who need them.

People like Michael St. Claire who don’t have rich parents to float them.

Anyway, summers here in Cedar Grove consist of hanging out at various people’s pool parties (in Kristin’s case), finding ways to avoid your mom’s insistence on dress shopping “just for fun” (my case), and a whole lot of Devon Patterson coming over for dinners.

So it’s like I said.

Summers are bittersweet.

Bitter, because I have to watch my sister and Devon make up for a school year’s worth of missed make-out sessions.

Sweet, because summer’s the only time I get to remind Devon that I’m even alive.

Tonight, however, is especially bitter. It’s the first night since Kristin and I got home that Devon has made the time to come over, and Kristin is alternating between pouting because he’s been busy, and letting her hand slide way too far up his leg, considering my parents are, like, right there.

I manage to get a couple of questions in around mouthfuls of chicken while Kristin picks at the green beans on her plate, but my parents mostly dominate the conversation, asking Devon what was next now that he’d graduated, and does he like Kristin’s new haircut?

Normally I love it when my parents give him the third degree after not seeing him for a while, because it lets me get the updates without having to seem overly interested myself.

But tonight I can’t stop noticing that Devon seems … off.

I’ve known him since the fourth grade, and he’s practically been a part of the family since he and Kristin started dating when they were fifteen.

He’s always been one of those easy, got-it-all-figured-out kind of guys, but tonight he’s acting weird.

I look at my sister to see if she noticed, but she’s too busy wiping calories—and flavor—off her grilled chicken.


After dinner, Kristin and I start to do the dishes, and Devon insists on helping, which is nice at first, but then I realize that it’s just a chance for them to grope each other while my parents finish their wine in the dining room.

I should be used to it.

I am used to it.

But tonight, I’m just not in the mood. My head is pounding, my legs feel like they’re broken after that stupid workout with Beefcake this morning, and my heart … it just hurts.

I make it through loading the plates and silverware into the dishwasher and then bail without guilt.

It’ll be a fun project for Kristin, having to figure out how to get the gunk off the potato dish without ruining her manicure.

I start to grab a Coke from the fridge, then hesitate as I imagine Michael St. Claire’s glare. I grab a Diet Coke instead.

I don’t care about being skinny. Not that much, anyway.

But I am tired of feeling out of control.

Granted, a sugar-substitute beverage is not going to help me take over the world or anything, but still, it feels like progress.

Baby steps, right?

I head out to the pool, watching from the chaise longue as the last of the daylight fades away, when someone plops down on the chair beside me.

“Hey, Chlo.”


Just like that, all the tension and headache melts away.

He and I don’t often get time alone.

Okay, hardly ever.

But every now and then he seems to remember that we were friends long before my sister even knew he was alive, and I get rewarded with moments like these.

Kristin-free moments.

“Hey,” I say softly as he stretches out his legs on the chaise. He’s wearing green cargo shorts and I try hard not to stare at the shape of his calves, I swear, but I look anyway.

Why is he so beautiful? And why do I have to notice?

“Where’s Kristin?” I ask, trying to remind my lust-addled brain that Devon is not for me.

I try to force my mouth to stop watering. It’s just his legs, for Christ’s sake. Hairy legs. Male hair is practically pubes … which so does not help my train of thought.

“On the phone,” he replies. “One of her sorority sisters is having some sort of crisis.”

“Probably a highlighting appointment gone wrong,” I say, pulling my legs up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my knees until I remember that I’m wearing shorts and that the fat white underside of my thighs is exposed. I quickly extend my legs straight out, but that sort of makes the leg fat spread out like a beached whale.


I sigh and try to forget about it.

Devon’s not paying any attention to my legs (of course), but he idly reaches out to take a sip of my Coke only to wince and make a face at it. “Diet?”

“Mom buys it for Kristin.”

“So why are you drinking it? You run out of the real stuff?”

I don’t know if I love that Devon’s totally ignorant, or if I’m totally annoyed by it.

I mean, on one hand I guess it says a lot about him that he doesn’t automatically assume that I’m drinking Diet Coke because I need to, well … diet.

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