“Sure. Just don’t cry when I take them from you.”
She grins. “Okay. Let’s see your hand.”
He turns over two cards and compares them to the ones flipped on the table.
My attention is split between the game and Lo, and I don’t want to focus on him anymore. I’m about to go against Connor’s wishes and dart to the back of the plane. In order to stop myself, I switch the television channels to find a show that can preoccupy my mind.
“So you have two eights,” Daisy says, a smile to the words.
“You beat me, didn’t you?”
“Two jacks,” she says.
“You were dealt two f**king jacks?”
“You can have the ring back if you want.”
Boy Meets World? No. Sabrina the Teenage Witch? No. Soccer? Definitely not.
“No, you won it. It’s yours.”
“I’m going to feel weird if it’s a family heirloom or something.” She tries to shove the ring into his hand. He holds them up in the air.
“It’s from a jewelry store, and I was going to retire the thing anyway.”
“So, you gave me an ugly piece of jewelry.”
“It’s worth two thousand f**king dollars.”
She smiles wryly. “Oh yeah.”
Ryke crumples the paper with the Ducati arrangement on it. He lost those bikes, and there’s a bit of disappointment in his eyes from not being able to snatch one. I wonder if they’re rare.
“How about…” Daisy folds the cash and stuffs it in her wallet. “…I’ll let you keep the black Ducati if you teach me how to ride.”
Law & Order? No. X-Men cartoon? Possibly. I hover on this channel a little, watching Wolverine in his original yellow and blue spandex.
Ryke taps the pen to the table. “I’m not going to teach you how to kill yourself.”
He glares. “Knowing you, you’d run the f**king bike off a damn cliff for the hell of it.”
She spreads her arms. “Then teach me how to stay on the road.”
He shakes his head. “No, if I show you how to ride, you’re going to do something stupid on the interstate.”
She touches her chest. “I would never.”
He throws a hundred dollar bill at her face. And it flutters into her lap before hitting her nose, not the effect he was looking for.
X-Men is not helping take my mind off Lo. I glance back at him again. Same hunched position. Same sadness. What is going on? I sigh and switch channels quickly.
“I’m not killing you,” Ryke repeats.
Her smile fades. “Ryke,” she says, “I’m going to figure out how to ride a motorcycle with or without you. I was just giving you the opportunity to have one of the bikes. I know you want it.”
He stares off, deep in thought, and then he shakes his head repeatedly, cringing. “Fuck.”
He covers his face with his hand. “I can’t stop picturing you flipping the bike over.”
“I haven’t fallen off yet,” she reminds him.
“Have you tried to do a wheelie?”
She stays quiet. “No,” she mutters.
“Jesus Christ,” he says, not believing her one bit. “You’re going to kill yourself.”
“You keep saying that.”
“And is it not processing in your head or you just don’t give a fuck?”
She unfurls the crumpled piece of paper slowly. “I think…that I’ll be okay,” she sidesteps his question with more confidence than I could even possess. “But if you change your mind about the bike, here’s my number.” She writes down her cell on the paper.
I wonder if a premium channel is playing a Marvel film.
Before I click into special programming, I land on a newsfeed.
I see the word sex.
It’s like a big flashing light in my eyes. I stay on the channel in curiosity. Maybe some senator had a sex scandal.
“Lily, wait!” Lo shouts.
My heart stops as my mind tailspins, trying to digest the program and Lo. Wait, wait, wait. Tears brim. Lo was upset.
And that’s not a senator.
He was upset because of this.
It’s me on the screen.
I shrink into a ball on the couch, my knees tucking to my chest. My hands are fixed on my mouth, my eyes too wide to shut.
I think…I think…I don’t know what I think.
The news stations are congregated outside Penn, and the bottom of the screen reads: Fizzle heiress has over fifty sexual partners and counting. Rumored sex addict.
Is this national news? How is this a national issue? What the hell is going on?
I don’t hear Lo call my name again. I turn up the television, and I’m shaking so badly that I have to hold the remote with both hands.
The news anchor is a petite blonde woman with bright red lipstick. “We just confirmed from a source that Lily Calloway, daughter of the founder of Fizzle, is a sex addict. As well as the fifty plus known men she’s slept with, she’s also been known to hire male prostitutes.”
My throat closes up, but I manage to barely breathe a word. One word. “Lo.”
He doesn’t come to me, and I can’t tear my eyes from the television.
“Lily, what’s going on?” Daisy asks, her voice tight.
Daisy, my parents—Oh my God, my father? His company…the guilt plows through me. They’re watching this. Everyone is watching this.
Melissa stirs from her corner, tugging her earbuds out and eyeing the screen. Oxygen refuses me. I shake my head again and again like this is a dream. I want to wake up. This can’t be real. But the words on the TV run through my head over and over and over. Sex addict. Sex addict. Sex addict.
This can’t be happening.
How much shame have I brought to my family?
“Lo,” I say a little louder, fixated on the TV as tears begin to scald my cheeks. “Lo!” I cry, terrified about what this means, as I process just how badly this is going to hurt everyone.
My phone buzzes beside me and the first text sends a knife in my gut.
Whore – Unknown.
It begins to explode in a rapid-fire wave of inflammatory messages. My eyes burn, and I choke on either a breath or a sob. “Lo!”
“I’m right here, Lil.” How long has he been on the couch? He turns me so that I face him, no longer absorbed by the newsfeed.
His hands touch my face, and he tries to wipe away the tears but I can’t stop crying. My chest constricts, and I sob into my palms. He draws me to his chest.
“You’re okay,” he says, rocking me a little, but there’s pain in his voice.
The plane feels too small. I don’t have enough air or space or lungs to battle this kind of affliction. I have ruined my family. It’s all I can think. It’s all I feel. I have spent years keeping my addiction a secret so that they wouldn’t bear the humiliation and disgrace. Their daughter is disgusting. I’m disgusting…
My mother…how will she look at me after this? How will Daisy?
“Lo, it hurts.” I try to take full breaths, but they’re sporadic and filled with so much desperation. I just want it to end. I want to fly the plane back and start over. We were headed home in triumph. We defeated Spring Break without giving into our vices.
Tonight was supposed to be about Lo and me together. And now…this…
I want to disintegrate, to flutter away and never wake up again.
“You’re okay,” Lo says, pulling me onto his lap. His arm swoops around my waist as he holds me tight to his chest. I can’t look anywhere but at my hands. They seem so empty all of a sudden. And then he grabs them and squeezes tight. “I have you.”
But I am falling so quickly.
I am drowning, Lo.
I don’t think I want to come up for air this time.
I’m not sure I can.
“We have a former captain of the Penn soccer team, Mason Nix, here to give a statement about Lily Calloway.”
This can’t be happening.
“Turn it off!” Lo yells.
But as Lo and Ryke struggle to find the remote that is lost in the depths of the cushions, I hear the past bleed into my ears.
“I slept with her when she was eighteen. My entire team did. She wasn’t just willing—she wanted it.” This is his payback. Was he the leak? We still don’t know. This one statement could just be revenge for being thrown over the hood of my car.
I can barely move. A single tear slides along Lo’s cheek. He wipes it quickly as he catches me watching. “Hey,” he whispers. “It’s okay, Lil.”
But my tears brim and burn. “You can’t be sad if it’s true,” I whisper back.
He stays strong and reaches out to touch my cheek. He kisses my lips, but I don’t feel the power in them that I usually do. My heart does not flutter. I am just sinking.
“And was she dating Loren Hale at the time, the heir of Hale Co.?” the news anchor asks.
“Lily, come on, love,” Lo pleads, kissing me stronger. “I’m right here.”
“Yeah,” Mason says. “She’s cheated on him this whole time.” The news anchor wears a look like what a poor bastard. I feel so sorry for him.
I turn my head from Lo, crying, my lips separating from his as I bury my head into my knees.
“Lily.” His voice breaks.
What have I done? I didn’t realize that my addiction would hurt him if it became public. He’s now the sad sap who was f**ked over by the slut. By me. How do I make this right? There’s no way to change this. How do I erase years and years of mistakes?
I want to go back in time. I want to tell myself that I don’t need to sleep around to satisfy this emptiness in me. That the guy I love is right there in front of my eyes. That he can be more than a friend. That I don’t need anyone else in the whole universe but Loren Hale.
And if I had just done that, everything would have turned out right.
I would not be sitting here listening to my past mistakes. I would have spent four years with Lo like I’m doing right now. Committed. Fulfilled.
My voice is stolen, and the words stay in the back of my throat. But I manage to say something.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him, muffled into my knees and incoherent with my sobs. I’m so f**king sorry, Lo.
He rubs my back. “Lil, it’s okay.”
It’s not okay.
Someone finds the remote because the voices silence. My phone vibrates manically on the floor, and I cover my ears with my arms now, a ball that cannot be unfurled. The noise pierces me, each rumble is another slut or whore that I have yet to read.
I truly want to disappear. I want my superpowers to kick in, right now. I want to never, ever exist again. I want Lo to live in a world where I don’t hurt him. Please, someone, make that come true.
Lo untangles me a little. He kisses my forehead and tries to let me cling back to him and not my bony legs. I slowly crawl onto his lap and press my cheek to his chest, listening to his unsteady heartbeat. I remain hidden, not vacating the safety of Lo’s shirt and avoiding the look of hurt and betrayal on Daisy’s face that I am sure exists tenfold.