Home > A Place Without You(15)

A Place Without You(15)
Author: Jewel E. Ann

“They’re underwear. Don’t be stupid.”

“Underwear? Still doesn’t make sense.”

“Captain Underpants.”

Bodhi coughs on a laugh. “Why doesn’t that surprise me about you? Of course, you’re mocking superhero day in your own special way.”

“I take offense.”

He crosses his superhero arms over his red, white, and blue chest. “When did you come up with that idea?”

Looking at my watch, I shrug. “Forty-five minutes ago.”

“Well, Thursday will be your day—the seventies.”

“Are you done making fun of me, Mr. Malone? It’s so unprofessional. I feel bullied. Should I report you for bullying?”

He grins. “Do you have a dress for the dance?”

“I will.”

“Seriously? You don’t have one yet?” His eyes widen.

“Juni will have something. It will be too OTT, and I’ll end up grabbing something from a thrift store. It’s not my first school dance, Mr. Malone. Besides, since it’s after the game, there’s no real dress code. You’ll see some kids quite casual and others dressed to the nines.”

He nods as his smile dies. “I saw you and Warren getting coffee yesterday afternoon. I was in town getting supplies with Duke.”

I adjust the tablecloth I’m using for large underpants. “Warren is a sweetheart. We get coffee most Sundays.”

Lines form along Bodhi’s forehead. “You were getting into his car.”

“Yeah. He drives since I don’t.”

“He kissed you.” Mr. Malone disappears. It’s just Bodhi and Henna.

“It was a kiss. He likes to kiss me. It doesn’t really mean anything.”

Bodhi rubs the tension from his wrinkled forehead. “He’s going to want to do more than kiss you this weekend. And I know this because I’m not that old, and I remember my senior homecoming. So it doesn’t make him a bad guy, just a guy.”

“Well, I trust him. And he’s not going to take anything that’s not his to take.”

“I’m not …” He sits up, resting his elbows on the desk. “I’m not implying that. I’m saying you’re clearly attracted to him. Maybe it’s not something he takes. Maybe it’s something you give him because you want to.”

“I don’t.”


“Don’t Henna me. It’s not his. It’s yours. And nothing will change that.”

Burying his face in his hands, he grumbles something undecipherable.

“Since we met in the spring, have you dated anyone else?”

Bodhi glances up, confusion marring his handsome features. “No. My sister came to stay with our dad while I was at Coachella. It’s the one time each year I can leave. The rest of the year I spend with him. Duke’s wife, Etta, watches him when I’m here, but after that, he’s my responsibility. I don’t have time to date. That’s not my life. But you can and you should.”

“Well, if you’re not having sex, then why should I need to have it?”

“Henna …” He shakes his head. I didn’t think he could look more pained. I was wrong. “It’s not that I … what I mean is …” Bodhi sighs.

My stomach tightens and my chest constricts my lungs, making it hard to breathe. “Sex,” I say on an exhale of disbelief. “You don’t date, but you … Jesus!” Standing, I slide my bag over my shoulder. “I feel so stupid. Just…” I shake my head “…so fucking stupid.”

“You’re not stupid.”

I grunt. “You’re right. I’m smart. Clearly, you’ve seen my grades. Straight A’s so far this semester, even in automotive class. Ha!” Letting my palm bounce off my forehead, my jaw hangs in the air a few moments. “Now it makes sense. Put Henna in a class with all guys and surely one of them will find their way into her pants.” Choking on the words, I will away the true emotion that’s like a machete slicing through my heart. “Does giving my body to someone else make you feel less guilty for hooking up with random women while your dad naps, or is it that you just don’t want to have sex with someone as inexperienced as me?”


“No.” I hold up my hand and grab the doorknob with my other hand. “Don’t answer that. We are done. I’ll text Warren and let him know he’s the lucky recipient of my virginity.” I make it out the door and halfway to the restroom before the first tear falls. I made up the story about making out with the guy in Monaco. He tried to kiss me, but my lips weren’t his to kiss. I just wanted to make Bodhi jealous. But what did it matter? Bodhi was fucking complete strangers. I wouldn’t relinquish a single kiss, while he gave disgusting, skanky women everything.

Resisting the urge to skip out on the rest of the day, I finish my classes and walk home in my Captain Underpants outfit, earning a few honks along the way, mostly from kids who know me. Juni and Zach are gone until Friday. She’ll swoop in with a dress that costs several grand, and I’ll surprise her by actually wearing it because Warren deserves to see me in Christian Dior before I give him my virginity.

When I’m no longer a virgin, I’ll tell Juni all the things most girls can’t tell their moms. I’ll tell her how it hurt and how he finished five seconds after we started. But because it’s Warren, I’m sure he’ll hold me and make me feel special. Warren actually thinks I am special. Maybe “Henna and Warren” is a better fit.

I contemplate all of this as I get so high I pass out, not my usual MO with marijuana, but sometimes the only thing that takes the pain completely away is the loss of consciousness.



“You gonna tell me what’s wrong?” my dad asks as I sort my mixed vegetables into their own piles on my dinner plate.

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“My legs don’t work, but my mind is just fine. I’m not elderly, suffering from dementia, or flat-out stupid. I know you. Something has you more miserable than your normal self-inflicted doom and gloom.”

I can’t tell him about Henna. That’s not a road I can go down now or maybe ever. Keeping him alive involves never letting him think I’m miserable because of his circumstances. College was for him, not for me. Sure, we needed the money, but he needed to feel that I was doing something for myself. Now I have a job, and I only share the good things about it.

“I have a student that’s suffering with some personal issues. It’s frustrating for me to not feel like I can really help her without overstepping my role as her guidance counselor.” Truth.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

I nod, forcing a smile. “I see that Etta made brownies. What are the chances that you let her make them without marijuana?”

He chuckles. I’ve missed his laugh. He seems to find it when he senses I’m happy. It’s a daunting responsibility to know that not only does his physical wellbeing depend on me, but his emotional one does too.

“No pot. And she made ice cream too. Does that make up for your bad week?”

It’s Friday. There will be a game. A dance. And the woman I love will have sex with someone else. Maybe Etta should have put pot in the brownies. It’s been a fucking miserable week without seeing Henna. I hurt her, and I don’t know how to make it right.

Forcing a smile, I nod to my dad. How can I be his everything and hers too? That’s just it … I can’t. So I make the only choice there is to make.

“Brownies and ice cream it is.” I go through the motions, living the life I earned.



“Stunning.” Juni smiles at my reflection in the mirror.

“It’s beautiful.” I smooth my hands over the soft blue dress.

“Your eyes shine so bright in it. Warren will love it.” She hands me my silver clutch before adjusting a few pins holding my hair up in a messy bun. I pop another gummy into my mouth.

Juni frowns, stilling her hands. “Are you dealing with pain tonight?”

Chewing slowly, I nod, but it’s not my back. It’s my heart.

“I’m sorry. Of all nights…”

I shrug. “It’s fine. I’ll be fine.”

Concern cuts deep into her perfect face. “Are you sure it’s your back?”

I nod, finding it hard to speak because I’m in a sexy dress for a guy who’s not Bodhi, and nothing has ever felt more wrong in my life.

“Henna,” she presses. “It’s him. Bodhi?”

Swallowing, I take a deep breath before speaking slowly. “I can have perfect makeup tonight …” Taking in another shaky breath, I continue, “Or we can talk about this.”

Juni nods in understanding. After a few silent seconds, she gently wraps her hands around my bare arms. “A wise young girl once told me, ‘Don’t sweat it. Everything is temporary.’”

I laugh a little. “Yeah … well, it started with you, but I think it’s also the mantra of everyone who experiences chronic back pain. It’s how we wake up each morning.”

“As your mom, I’m so grateful that you do in fact wake up each morning. And…” she holds up a hand before I speak because she knows what I’m going to say “…I’m saying it for myself, not for you. So don’t feel like it’s a speech about you needing to look on the bright side or to show a little more gratitude. I’m so incredibly proud of all that you’ve accomplished in the past three years.”

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