“Wanna go for a ride?”
“What?” Alex took off his headphones.
“I said, you wanna go for a ride?” Michael was sitting in his truck, the window rolled down. His left hand, resting on the sill, had been crudely splinted and plastered, probably by Michael himself. Alex looked away hastily.
“It’s exam week, Guerin,” he said.
“Yeah, so? I don’t have anything till sixth period,” said Michael. “Ditch with me.”
Alex checked his watch. Last bell in three minutes. He glanced around the parking lot, making sure there was no one in the vicinity to see him talking to Michael Guerin. A week had passed since the incident in the shed, and he hadn’t spoken to Michael. He hadn’t even tried. Too afraid his dad would actually kill Michael the next time, if there was a next time, which was why there could never be a next time.
Plus, he hadn’t told Michael about his decision to enlist.
Off to Basic at the end of summer.
Everything was so fucked up.
Michael watched Alex dither.
He knew what was going through his head, the risk assessment, the rapid tally of pros and cons. But there was a desperate yearning in his eyes, an imperative want that was slowly eclipsing the fear factor.
Alex was gonna get in Michael’s car. Michael fucking knew it.
The final bell rang. “Now or never, Manes,” he said.
Alex got in the truck.
“I thought you had Spanish second period,” he said.
“Review session.” Michael shrugged. “Don’t need it.”
“Course you don’t,” Alex said, sounding more like himself.
Michael put his foot on the gas and tore out of the parking lot.
Alex had found the baggy of weed stashed in the cup holder. He’d been smoking a lot over the past week, Michael had. Anything to take the edge off the agonizing pain in his hand. He’d also started hitting the acetone pretty hard, not only after he used his powers. And alcohol, too, when he could get it. The three made for a heady combination: his brain would drift skyward, where it bobbed around harmlessly, somewhere in the vicinity of the ozone layer.
“Help yourself,” he told Alex.
“Do you have like a bong?”
Michael laughed. “This isn’t Dazed and Confused.”
“There’s rolling papers in there somewhere.”
Alex twirled the dime bag in his long elegant fingers. Michael noticed he wasn’t wearing any nail polish. “Maybe later,” Alex said. He cleared his throat. “So where are we—”
“I thought we could go for a drive,” Michael said. “But first—you hungry? I’m kinda starving.”
“I could eat,” Alex said.
“How much money have you got on you?”
Alex dug in his pocket. “Only three bucks,” he said.
“I’ve got five,” Michael said. “Eight bucks—that’s like four tacos from Pablo’s.”
“If we go to Taco Bell, we can get five tacos plus a chalupa,” Alex pointed out.
“Sure,” Michael agreed. “You’re the boss.”
But Alex didn’t crack a smile. “Guerin…”
“We don’t have to talk about it,” Michael said. “We don’t. We can just…”
Max used to think it was unfair that Liz and Kyle got to take Spanish with everybody else, even though they spoke it at home. Liz and Kyle made the rest of them look bad. Why couldn’t they take French or something? But graduation was right around the corner and he was running out of time with Liz. So he tried to be grateful for every minute, even though it was kind of humiliating that he still couldn’t roll his r’s while Liz and Kyle and Señora Salido spent the class period trilling back and forth at each other.
This review session was a complete waste of time, though. Because instead of going over the subjunctive/imperative with the advanced students, Señora Salido was stuck up front with Kate, Jasmine, and the rest of the beginners who hadn’t even learned to conjugate verbs.
“Repeat after me,” Señora Salido was saying wearily. “La Pared.”
“La Pared,” they droned.
Liz and Kyle were sitting in front of him, their dark heads inclined towards one another. Max suspected they might be fighting. Liz’s shoulders looked tense, and Valenti had his arms folded—or maybe he was just trying to show off his biceps.
“What does La Pared mean?” Señora Salido asked.
“The window?” said Kate Long.
“The wall,” said somebody else.
“Correct. The wall.” Señora Salido looked like she’d rather be anywhere else. Max couldn’t blame her.
“Oh, the wall,” said Kate.
“El Aeropuerto. Repeat after me. El Aeropuerto.”
“El Aeropuerto,” they said.
Max wondered if he could pass a note to Liz without Kyle noticing. Probably not.
“What does El Aeropuerto mean?”
“The air… door?” Jasmine asked.
“The airport,” Liz snapped, like she couldn’t restrain herself. “Dios mío, estos imbéciles…”
“Wait,” said Jasmine. “Don’t they talk about air doors in airplanes?”
Scanning the room, Max realized Michael hadn’t bothered to show up. This wasn’t unusual in and of itself; Michael always did his own thing. But last week Michael had gotten hurt at work, some kind of nasty accident that really smashed up his hand, and Max suspected it was a lot worse than he was letting on.
He pulled out his phone to text him.
Isobel had been staring dreamily out the window when she realized Mlle Jackson was standing right in front of her desk. “Isobel?”
“Oui?” she said, batting her eyelashes.
“I’m concerned because you seem quite distracted during class time,” Mlle Jackson said. “And while some of your classmates have perfected the art of paying attention and socializing, you seem to be missing out on crucial instruction. And your participation grade is suffering.”
“Is it?” Isobel said, indifferently. She glanced down at her notebook, where she’d been doodling a single word over and over: Ophiuchus Ophichus Ophiuchus Ophi—
“Yes,” Mlle Jackson said. It was all such a farce, Isobel thought. Mademoiselle Jackson wasn’t any more French than she was. And her accent was tragic. “This has been an ongoing issue with you. I hope you will really apply yourself for the final exam, or else your overall grade—”
“Thank you so much for having faith in me,” Isobel said. “I’m sorry I let you down. I will apply myself more diligently in the future, I promise.” She rolled her eyes as soon as the teacher’s back was turned. Jesus.
Alex Manes wasn’t present today, Isobel noticed.
Alex turned the volume up as they pulled out of the drive-thru.
“I hate this song,” Michael said.
“Everybody secretly loves it, though,” Alex said. He held the take-away bag in his lap. They’d gotten a free soda when Michael winked at the girl behind the window. Alex stabbed the straw through the lid with more violence than was strictly necessary.
“No but I actually hate it though,” Michael said. “It’s the worst song ever written.”
Things were so stilted between them. They hadn’t said anything since Michael had said they didn’t have to talk about it. Alex turned the dial up a little louder and sang along: “Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you. By now you shoulda somehow realized what you gotta do. I don’t believe that anybody—”
He didn’t notice Michael turn the radio off.
“—feels the way I do about you now,” Alex sang, and then he realized it was just him singing in the silence. His cheeks flamed with embarrassment.
Michael laughed at him. “Gotcha,” he said, and switched the radio back on.
“You’re such an asshole.” Alex elbowed him. Then he froze, his elbow still digging into Michael’s ribcage. This was the first time they’d touched since—
Michael’s hand squeezed his shoulder affectionately while he laced up his sneakers, still so drunk off sex and Michael and Michael and sex that he could hardly tie his laces—
He didn’t retract his elbow, even though he was holding his arm out awkwardly, like a chicken wing. When the chorus came on he nudged Michael, startling a laugh out of him, and then they sang along together: “And all the roads we have to walk are winding. And all the lights that lead us there are blinding. There are many things that I would like to say to you but I don’t know how. Because maybeeeeeeeeee, you’re gonna be the one that saves meeeeeeeeee. And after alllll—”
After the bell finally rang, signaling the end of the period, Isobel bolted out of the French classroom. She didn’t have anything till sixth period, and she thought she’d call Rosa, see if she wanted to hang out for a while. Because fuck high school, honestly, and Rosa got that on an intuitive level that even Michael couldn’t grasp because he was too much of a genius to hate school outright.
Suddenly a howling lockdown alarm sounded through the halls.
Isobel moaned and covered her ears. God. All these drills, they were way too overcautious since that thing in Virginia, and she was just. so. tired.
The lady who taught Spanish, Señora Something-or-Other, poked her head out of a classroom. “You,” she said, pointing at Isobel, “Get inside. Hurry. That’s a lockdown alarm.”
“No, I’m fine,” Isobel said politely. “I was just leaving. Thank you.”
“You get inside here right now!” barked Señora Something-or-Other. “That’s an order.” She dragged Isobel into the Spanish classroom by the arm. “Go sit under one of the desks.”
Rolling her eyes, Isobel looked around the room. The other students were already sheltering under their desks, Liz Ortecho and Kyle Valenti and oh, there was Max. Isobel sat next to him while the teacher locked the door and drew the blinds. “Oh, hey,” Max said. His eyes were fixed on Liz, where she was crammed under a desk with Kyle.
“Is this a drill?” Isobel called out to Señora Something-or-Other. “We always have these.”
“I don’t know,” the teacher said, folding herself awkwardly under her own desk.
“Don’t they tell you when drills happen?” Max asked.
“No, Max, they don’t.”
“What if it’s not a drill?” said one of the girls near the front. Isobel recognized her: one of Rosa’s druggy friends from her dealing days. Rosa had cut ties with her old crowd after she got out of rehab.
“It means there’s an intruder on campus,” Liz said.
“Or a bomb threat,” said Kyle. “It is finals week.”
“Try to stay quiet,” Señora Something-or-Other said.
Isobel rested her head on Max’s shoulder and closed her eyes. The room was silent, except for everyone’s breathing.
A sound like a gunshot echoed off in the distance.
“Now why’d it do that?” Frowning, Michael pulled the truck over to the side of the road.
“What happens when a car backfires?” Alex asked.
“It’s the spark plugs lighting fuel out of turn,” Michael explained distractedly, opening his door and jumping down. “I’m gonna take a look, hang on.”
Alex watched him pop the hood. Then he got out, too. It wasn’t even ten o’clock, and the day was well on its way to becoming a scorcher. He rolled up the sleeves of his t-shirt. He knew that summer in Roswell and an all-black wardrobe didn’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but he’d committed to A Look and soon enough he’d be wearing camo along with all the other trainees at San Antonio so he might as well make the most of it while he could.
Michael was hunched over, elbows-deep in the engine. Alex couldn’t take his eyes off the strip of golden skin exposed where Michael’s shirt had ridden up. He didn’t have to imagine; the memories were right there. He knew what Michael looked like naked, he knew what Michael’s hands looked like on his skin, he knew—
Michael straightened up. “It was just the air filter,” he announced, wiping his right hand on his jeans. The damaged left one hung at his side, makeshift cast streaked with grease. He must have clocked how hungrily Alex was staring at him, because a smile spread across his face, slow and warm as molasses. “I’ll replace it later, we’re good to go.” He slammed the bonnet down. “C’mon.”
Alex got back in the passenger seat. He couldn’t for the life of him understand why Michael didn’t seem to hate him, when he had every reason to do so.
The desert opened before them, and the whole world sparkled. Clouds reflecting on a red horizon, dust and clay and sand. Michael rolled down his window and Alex did the same. “One Too Many Mornings” was playing quietly on the radio.
“My mom loved this song,” Alex said.
“Yeah?” Alex had never talked about his mom before.
“Uh huh. She left all her Dylan CDs behind when she went. I’ve still got ’em.” Alex crumpled up the trash from their meal and stuffed it back in the bag. “Ugh. I feel a little sick.”
“Me too.” But it wasn’t his stomach; his ruined hand hurt like a bitch. The pain was making him break out in a sweat, and he couldn’t drink any acetone with Alex watching. “Can you roll a joint?” he asked instead.
“Uh… I could try?”
“Nah, don’t stress it.” He took his good hand off the wheel and patted Alex’s thigh. Alex’s leg jumped. Michael spread his fingers a little wider, and he heard Alex’s breath stutter when he squeezed lightly.
My eyes they start to fade
And I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid
“Guerin,” Alex began softly, and Michael tightened his grip. “Did you mean what you said before? That we don’t have to talk about it?”
“Sure.” He was light-headed, a combination of the pain and the feel of Alex’s body quivering under his hand.
“We can really just…”
“Yeah,” Michael said. “We can really just…” He swallowed. “Hey, look at that valley.”
“Whoa,” Alex said.
“You can see to the end of everything here. I’m gonna miss that in Albuquerque.” His memories of Albuquerque weren’t so good; that was where he’d lived with his first foster parents, the meth heads. But UNM would be different, he knew that. He had a full ride from the School of Engineering, housing and meal plan included. He would never find himself beholden to anyone or anything ever again. He would be free.
He wanted to ask Alex to come with him.
“Watch the road,” Alex said.
“I can drive with my knees,” Michael said. “Look.”
“Careful!” Alex yelped, even though the truck hadn’t so much as wavered from its course.
“Wow, okay. You’re really fucking good at that,” Alex conceded.
“I don’t think that was a gun,” Max said. “I think it was just a car backfiring.”
“Yeah?” Liz asked, biting her lip.
“Yeah,” Max said. Isobel was still leaning her head on his shoulder. Had she dozed off? In the middle of a lockdown? She’d been acting so fucked up these past few weeks. Max was pretty worried about her, actually. Michael thought she was on drugs.
“It could’ve been a gun,” Kyle insisted. “This is New Mexico, Evans.”
“I know where we are, thanks, Valenti.”
“I hope that all the students got pulled inside a classroom,” Señora Salido said anxiously.
“Did you see where Alex went?” Liz turned to Isobel. “Do you think he stayed in the French room? Isobel?”
Max jostled her with his shoulder.
“What?” Isobel snapped.
“Liz was asking you about Alex.”
“Alex?” Isobel blinked. “Oh. He wasn’t in French today.”
“Really?” Liz looked worried. “That’s not like Alex. I guess I’ll text him.”
Max remembered he’d meant to text Michael before the alarm. He pulled out his phone and fired off a message: Bro where u at. Lockdown at school. U okay?
A loud crackle of static: they all jumped, except Isobel. Then a voice came over the loudspeaker: “This is Principal Leonard. We are in the middle of a lockdown. That means you should have the lights off, the blinds drawn, and everyone should be under their desks.”
“Like that’s gonna do us any good,” said Kyle.
“Shh,” said Señora Salido.
The announcement continued: “You are not allowed, under any circumstances, to open the door. Not for any reason. We don’t have much information right now. What we do know is that there is an intruder on campus. Be advised, on the security cameras he’s dressed in a black trench coat and combat boots. And he may be armed. Another announcement will follow. We’re beginning the process of securing the campus. Follow your protocol, teachers.”
“Dios mío,” Liz said. “I need to call my dad.”
“No phone calls, it’s protocol,” Señora Salido said. “I’m sure the police are on their way.”
“Great. Daddy Valenti. Somebody should’ve warned me it was take your kid to work day,” Kyle griped. Max wished the guy would shut up already.
Then came the sound of an explosion.
“I’m gonna pull over and roll that joint,” Michael said.
“Should you smoke and drive at the same time?” Alex said. He thought Michael looked pale under his tan and wondered, with a sick swooping sensation in his stomach, if Michael’s hand was hurting him.
“It doesn’t really affect me that way, but I don’t hafta,” Michael said. The knuckles of his right hand had gone white from how tightly he was clutching the steering wheel, and yeah, Alex was pretty sure he was in pain.
“No, it’s fine,” he said quickly. “Let’s pull over and smoke it now.”
Michael rolled the joint with an efficient, practiced air. Alex watched him lick the rolling paper and felt a different sort of swoop in his stomach. He remembered what that tongue felt like, dragging over his skin, swirling around his nipple, till he was laughing and giddy and tugging on Michael’s hair to make him stop.
Michael lit the joint and they passed it back and forth a few times. Alex shivered the first time he placed his mouth where Michael’s mouth had been and felt the dampness of the paper against his lips. He watched a little of the tension ease from Michael’s neck and shoulders. He was feeling pretty relaxed, himself.
“Are you fucked up?” he asked, a little dreamily, when Michael started the car again.
“I’m good,” Michael said.
They got back on the road and Michael blasted the radio.
“I feel like this song doesn’t actually have any lyrics to it, and it’s just a bunch of howls and sounds,” Alex commented. “Maybe that’s why everybody likes it.”
“It totally has lyrics, though,” Michael said. “We know what they are.”
“Well, yeah, you think you do,” Alex said cryptically. The distance between them was telescoping wildly; one minute, Michael was so close Alex could see the tiny holes in his t-shirt, and the next, Michael might have been miles away, just a tiny dot on the horizon, even though they hadn’t left the cab of the truck.
“… entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious…”
“He sounds like he’s singing with his mouth full of food,” Alex said. “Maybe it’s like a grunge thing, ’cause I have trouble understanding Fall Out Boy, too.”
“Wait, you did not just—” Michael shook his head. “No way, dude. There’s only two good grunge bands and they’re both named Nirvana.” He gave Alex a long look; if looks had a taste, Alex thought, Michael’s would taste like honey. “I think you might be a little fucked up,” Michael said.
“No, I’m great, I’m really really great,” Alex assured him breathlessly. “I love spending time with you, Michael.”
“You all heard that, right?” one of the girls was asking in a high-pitched voice. “That was real. That was a real sound.”
“This is basic protocol so there’s nothing to worry about,” Señora Something-or-Other said. But Isobel didn’t think she sounded so confident this time.
“Nothing to worry about?” the girl, Kate-or-Jasmine, squeaked. Isobel wondered if she was the one who’d sprayed Go Back to Mexico on Rosa’s car. “But—”
“We do so many lockdowns,” Max offered. “Maybe it’s part of the exercise.”
“Well, lockdowns are important,” Señora Something-or-Other said vaguely.
“If there’s really a shooter,” somebody said, “does that mean the final will be cancelled? Or that maybe we can get extended time?”
“Dude,” Max said, “you know the test is oral, right?”
“Giving or getting?” Kyle asked.
“Be the only test you finished first,” Liz mumbled under her breath, and Isobel almost laughed. That was the kind of thing Rosa would have said; maybe Liz was cooler than Isobel gave her credit for.
“I’m just gonna take some of this cough syrup,” Kyle said, pulling a bottle out of his bag.
“Are you sick?” asked Señora.
Isobel exchanged a glance with Max.
“Then it’s fine,” Señora Something-or-Other said.
“You’re sick?” Liz demanded, tugging at Kyle’s sleeve. “Since when?”
“No. I don’t know.” Kyle’s cheeks had turned pink. “I’m not sick. Never mind. Sorry. I just like the taste of it.”
“He’s scared,” Isobel whispered to Max.
“Is there a gunman?” That was the other girl Rosa hated, Jasmine-or-Kate, sounding close to tears.
“Principal Leonard said there was an intruder,” Liz said. “Not necessarily a gunman.”
“I don’t think there’s a gun,” the Spanish teacher said. “Maybe just an upset student.”
“Maybe just a stoned student,” Max suggested, his eyes on Liz. “Like some kid accidentally got too high and he’s wandering around and doesn’t even realize he’s scared everyone. Students are all pretty harmless, right? It’s the rest of the world we’ve gotta watch out for. School is like a small paradise island.”
Everyone turned to stare at Max. Isobel closed her eyes in mortification. Max was such a… freak, sometimes. And not even a cool, edgy freak like Rosa, but a straight-up dork. Quoting Shakespeare and John Donne and basically talking like a seventeenth-century poetry anthology.
“A small paradise island?” Kyle repeated disbelievingly. “Dude, that’s like the gayest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Isobel didn’t disagree; probably nobody disagreed. But she had a duty to defend her hapless brother from assholes like Valenti, so she cut in: “Kyle, you’re shaking. Badly.”
“You are,” Liz confirmed, resting a hand on her boyfriend’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“I’m sure your dad will be here soon,” Isobel told him sweetly.
“You’re supposed to take a bullet for us, right, Señora? If it comes to that?” Kate-or-Jasmine asked.
“We’re here,” Michael said. He’d driven them way up into the hills and parked the truck on a broad mesa with one of those see-for-miles-and-miles views. “I found this spot with Max a couple years ago.”
“It’s pretty,” Alex commented, which was a more lackluster response than Michael might have wished for. “Is it true that Max likes Liz?” he asked suddenly.
“Oh.” Michael hesitated. He didn’t want to be disloyal, but this was Alex. “Yeah, he does. A lot.”
“Cool,” Alex said, slouching lower in his seat. “I mean, I thought so. I was just making sure.”
“Well if you’ve noticed him acting like a fucking idiot, then yeah, it’s because he likes Liz.” There had been a moment, a day or two before the day, when Michael had felt a tremendous kinship with Max. They were sitting in their usual booth at the Crashdown and Max said he was gonna ask Liz out. If his googly-eyes and sappy grin were anything to gauge by, Max felt much the same about Liz as Michael felt about Alex. And they had teetered on that precipice together, afraid and exhilarated, bracing themselves for the jump.
“He’s liked her for a long time,” Michael said.
“Liz thought so, but she wasn’t sure,” Alex said. “She didn’t know why he never did anything about it.”
“Didn’t he?” Michael searched his brain. “He said he told her after biology that it was heaven to work with her.”
“Oh. She thought he was being sarcastic.”
“Why would that be sarcastic? She’s the best at bio. Besides, Max wouldn’t know sarcasm if it bit him in the ass. And he invited her to a movie a few weeks ago; they went together and everything.”
“Yeah but she said he didn’t do anything at the movie theater,” Alex pointed out.
“He said he did. He said he put his hand on her knee.”
“Liz said she thought Max thought it was his knee and he was confused.”
“I don’t know how it could have been any more obvious,” Michael said.
Alex took a breath. “It really is fucking beautiful up here,” he said. “I’m glad—”
Michael leaned across the seat and kissed him.
Alex hesitated only a second, then he was scooching closer, his hands coming up to Michael’s shoulders, gripping the fabric of his t-shirt.
And Michael felt the falling feeling again. But you couldn’t jump off the same cliff twice, and he’d been in free-fall for days now. He loved Alex, probably. He wanted Alex to follow him to Albuquerque. He wanted to force Jesse Manes to his knees—you evil motherfucker, you can’t fuck with me—and make sure he could never hurt Alex again. Yeah, Michael loved Alex all right.
He didn’t know if Alex loved him back, but Alex had to feel something, or else he wouldn’t be kissing him back like this, like his whole life depended on it.
Michael wasn’t stupid. Jesse Manes had shown him that his and Alex’s feelings for one another would have to exist—if they continued to exist at all—entirely in solitude. He and Alex would have to create their own world and live a secret separate life inside it that nobody else could ever know about.
He knew it was ridiculous, dangerous, even, to assume that the universe had thrown the love of his life into his lap at the tender age of seventeen. He wasn’t supposed to know who he was at seventeen, nobody was: you were supposed to get out there, out into the world, and discover yourself, right? What happened when you were young was chalked up to learning experience, it wasn’t real, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to work out.
Michael knew this.
Bad things happened when you tried. When you held on to loves that were never meant to last.
Romeo and Juliet had tried to make things work. And…
Michael was having trouble coming up with gayer examples.
Which wouldn’t help, anyway, because Michael wasn’t gay…
Romeo and Juliet weren’t gay, but they were dead. Which kind of served the point, because they were stupid.
Harry didn’t meet Sally at like age twenty-one.
Well, no. Michael took that back. He kind of did.
But it took Harry time to really meet Sally, in the end.
Michael wasn’t stupid. He knew the universe didn’t owe him jack-shit. But he was too stupid to care. Because Alex was in his arms and Alex was kissing him back and that was all he cared about right now.
There was a knock on the door, and Kate and Jasmine screamed. Max would be lying if he said he didn’t flinch a little himself.
“Hello?” a voice called. “Everybody all right in there?”
“Dad?” Kyle sat up so fast he cracked his head on the underside of the desk. “Ow, shit.”
“Yeah, dad, it’s me, I’m in here,” Kyle said. He scrambled out from under the desk, clutching his head. “I’ll get the door—”
“Do not unlock that door,” Sheriff Valenti boomed from the other side. “We’re still securing the campus. Is there a teacher in there with you?”
“Yolanda Salido,” Señora called. “This is the Spanish classroom.”
Yolanda. That was a pretty name, Max thought. He’d almost forgotten their teacher’s name wasn’t just Señora, since that was what they called her. But that was stupid, everybody had a first name. He thought Yolanda was a nice one.
“Oh, hi Yolanda,” the Sheriff said. “Edgar’s fine, by the way. He’s patrolling south campus with Garcia and Jones.”
“Who’s Edgar?” Kyle asked.
“Her husband,” Liz hissed.
“What’s going on out there, Jim?” asked Señora Salido.
“It seems like somebody planted dry-ice bombs in a couple of the trash cans,” Sheriff Valenti said, and a palpable sigh of relief swept through the room. A few people laughed. Isobel looked bored. “Still looking for the perp, but the lockdown should be lifted soon,” the Sheriff added. “Stay where you are till the announcement comes over the loudspeaker.”
His footsteps retreated down the hall.
The classroom erupted in chatter. Señora Salido didn’t even try to control them, she just sank into a chair and closed her eyes. She might have been praying, or something.
Max shifted closer to Isobel. “You don’t think it was Michael, do you?” he asked in an undertone. “As some kind of prank?”
“Oh for god’s sake, Max,” Isobel snapped. “Of course it’s not Michael. I’m sure he has a good reason for being… wherever he is.”
Max figured she was probably right, though he was having a hard time taking Isobel at her word these days. She’d been acting so weird. And Michael, too, seemed kind of fucked up in his own way. How did only Max end up normal?
Alex’s jeans were hanging off one ankle and his sneaker lay several feet away on the ground where he’d kicked it. They were impossibly cramped in the cab of the truck, even with both doors flung open and Michael’s legs half in, half out. Michael’s jeans were bunched around his thighs. Alex scrabbled at his bare shoulders for purchase as he settled in his lap. So sweaty already. He tasted salt every time they kissed.
“Guerin—” he gasped.
Michael stroked his back. “Are you okay? Am I hurting you?”
Alex shook his head. He liked the contradiction of it—the hardness of Michael entering his body, the softness of their skin, the dull roar of the wind, the quiet between them save for their labored breathing. “Feels good.”
“Yeah. So good, Guerin…”
Alex knew he was making everything worse for himself, for them, by doing this again. But the reckless part of him hoped they’d do it again and again and over and over till Michael left for college and he left for Basic and they probably never saw each other again but at least they’d have these memories imprinted on their bodies.
Michael’d had sex with other people before Alex so it probably didn’t mean as much to him as it meant to Alex. But maybe it meant something? Michael’s golden-brown eyes held a depth of feeling that scared Alex, even as he craved everything they seemed to promise him, if only he were brave enough to take it.
He couldn’t bring himself to get off Michael’s lap right away. And Michael seemed in no great hurry, either, trailing his fingers over Alex’s skin and pressing the occasional kiss to his jaw or the corner of his mouth.
They were reluctantly getting dressed when both their phones started ringing at once. They exchanged a wary look, Michael answering his phone a beat after Alex answered his.
“Hey Liz, yeah of course I’m fine, I just—what?”
“Max. What’s up? What? What the hell are you—”
Then: “Are you serious?” they yelped in unison.
“I’ll see you soon, yeah. Bye.”
“And what about Iz? Okay. Later, bro.”
They hung up.
“What the fuck,” Michael said.
“Totally wild.” Alex shook his head. “D’you think anyone else noticed we weren’t there? Probably not, right?”
“Well, I think we had a much better morning than they did,” Michael said, and Alex certainly couldn’t disagree. He let Michael crowd him up against the side of the truck and they kissed a while longer before they started home.
Isobel hustled out of the Spanish classroom the second the lockdown was lifted. What a stupid waste of a morning, with everyone spazzing out over a little ice? God, Roswell was such a joke.
She spotted Rosa waiting for her across the street and strolled over, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she went.
“Well that backfired,” Rosa said grumpily, linking arms with her and rapidly towing her away from campus.
“I tried to spring you out of finals,” Rosa explained, and that was when Isobel noticed the bundle of dark clothing tucked under her arm. “I thought they’d, like, evacuate the school if there was a bomb scare. And we could’ve gone for a drive in the desert or something cool like that. But their dumb asses went all intruder-lockdown instead.”
Isobel stopped in her tracks. “What the actual fuck?” she exclaimed. “Rosa, what if you’d been caught? Or Sheriff Valenti could’ve shot you, or— Are you completely psycho?”
Rosa scowled. “Whatever. I’m sorry for trying to like, give you a free pass on your exams. Jesus Christ.”
Isobel laughed delightedly. “I can’t believe you’re for real,” she said, squeezing Rosa’s arm. “That is like so fucked up.”
“Well, I’m pretty fucked up,” Rosa said, and she smiled.