CRAVING FOR YOU
(Things Hot Pink and Harry Styles Have in Common)
“Which bed is hers?” Flint asks as he propels me over the threshold.
“The one on the right,” Macy answers. Her voice is back to sounding funny, so I glance over my shoulder to make sure she’s okay.
She looks fine, but her eyes are huge, and they keep darting from Flint to the rest of the room and back again. I give her a what’s up look, but she just shakes her head in the universal sign for don’t say ANYTHING. So I don’t.
Instead, I look around the room I’m going to share with my cousin for the next several months. It takes only a couple of seconds for me to figure out that no matter what she said about being okay with me having my own room, she had planned on me rooming with her all along.
For starters, all her possessions are arranged neatly on one rainbow-colored side of the room. And for another, the spare bed is already made up in—of course—hot-pink sheets and a hot-pink comforter with huge white hibiscus flowers all over it.
“I know you like surfing,” she says, watching me eye the blindingly bright comforter. “I thought you might like something that reminds you of home.”
That shade of pink reminds me of surfer Barbie more than it reminds me of home, but no way am I going to say that to her. Not when it’s obvious she’s gone out of her way to make me feel comfortable. I appreciate she cared enough to try. “Thanks. It’s really nice.”
“It’s definitely cheerful,” Flint says as he helps me to the bed. The look he gives me is totally tongue-in-cheek, but that only makes me like him more. The fact that he realizes how absurd Macy’s decorating choices are but is way too nice to say anything that might hurt her feelings totally works for me. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ve made another friend.
He drops my suitcases at the foot of the bed, then steps back as I sink onto my mattress, my head still spinning a little.
“Do you guys need anything else before I head out?” Flint asks after we are completely disentangled.
“I’m good,” I tell him. “Thanks for the help.”
“Any time, New Girl.” He flashes me a ten-thousand-kilowatt smile. “Anytime.”
I’m pretty sure Macy whimpers a little at the sight of that grin, but she doesn’t say anything. Just kind of walks to the door and smiles weakly as she waits for him to leave. Which he does with a little wave for me and a fist bump for her on his way out.
The second the door is closed, and locked, behind him, I say, “You’ve got a crush on Flint.”
“I don’t!” she answers, looking wildly at the door, like he can hear us through the thick wood.
“Oh yeah? Then what was all that about?”
“All what?” Her voice is about three octaves too high.
“You know.” I wring my hands, bat my lashes, give a halfway-decent imitation of the sounds she’s been making since her father flagged down Flint for help.
“I don’t sound like that.”
“You totally sound like that,” I tell her. “But I don’t get it. If you like him, why didn’t you try to talk to him more? I mean, it was, like, a perfect opportunity,”
“I don’t like him like him. I don’t!” she insists with a laugh when I give her a look. “I mean, yeah, he’s gorgeous and nice and supersmart, but I’ve got a boyfriend who I really care about. It’s just, Flint is so…Flint. You know? And he was in our room, next to your bed.” She sighs. “The mind boggles.”
“Don’t you mean swoons?” I tease.
“Whatever.” She rolls her eyes. “It’s not a real crush. It’s more like…”
“More like the aura surrounding the most popular boy in school?”
“Yes, that! Exactly that. Except Flint’s not quite that high on the list. Jaxon and his group have the top positions pretty much sewn up.”
“Jaxon?” I ask, trying to sound casual even as my whole body goes on high alert. I don’t know how I know she’s talking about him, but I do. “Who’s Jaxon?”
“Jaxon Vega.” She fake swoons. “I have no idea how to explain Jaxon, except… Oh, wait! You saw him.”
“I did?” I try to ignore the way flying dinosaurs have once again taken up residence in my stomach.
“Yeah, on the way to our room. He was one of the guys who nearly hit me in the face with the door. The really hot one out in front.”
I play dumb even though my heart is suddenly beating way too fast. “You mean the ones who completely ignored us?”
“Yeah.” She laughs. “Don’t take it personally, though. That’s just the way Jaxon is. He’s…angsty.”
He’s a lot more than angsty, if our conversation a little while ago is anything to go by. But I’m not about to bring up what happened to Macy when I don’t even know how I feel about it yet.
So I do the only thing I can do. I change the subject. “Thanks so much for setting up the room for me. I appreciate it.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it.” She waves it away. “It was no big deal.”
“I’m pretty sure it was a big deal. I don’t know that many companies that deliver ninety minutes outside of Healy, Alaska.”
She blushes a little and looks away, like she doesn’t want me to know just how much trouble she’s gone through to make me feel at home. But then she shrugs and says, “Yeah, well, my dad knows all the ones that do. It wasn’t a problem.”
“Still, you’re totally my favorite cousin.”
She rolls her eyes. “I’m your only cousin.”
“Doesn’t mean you aren’t also my favorite.”
“My dad uses that line.”
“That you’re his favorite cousin?” I tease.
“You know what I mean.” She sighs in obvious exasperation. “You’re a dork; you know that, right?”
“I absolutely do, yes.”
She laughs, even as she crosses to the mini fridge next to her desk. “Here, drink this,” she says as she pulls out a large bottle of water and tosses it to me. “And I’ll show you the rest.”
“Yeah. There’s more.” She crosses to one of the closets and pulls open the doors. “I figured your wardrobe wasn’t exactly equipped for Alaska, so I supplemented a little.”
“A little is an understatement, don’t you think?”
Lined up inside the closet are several black skirts and pants, along with white and black blouses, a bunch of black or purple polo shirts, two black blazers, and two red and black plaid scarves. There are also a bunch of lined hoodies, a few thick sweaters, a heavy jacket, and two more pairs of snow pants—none of which is in hot pink, thankfully. On the floor are a few pairs of new shoes and snow boots, along with a large box of what looks like books and school supplies.
“There are socks and thermal underwear and some fleece shirts and pants in your dresser drawers. I figure moving here is hard enough. I didn’t want you to have to worry about anything extra.”
And just like that, she manages to knock down the first line of my defenses. Tears bloom in my eyes, and I look away, blinking quickly in an effort to hide what a disaster I am.
It obviously doesn’t work, because Macy makes a small exclamation of dismay. She’s across the room in the blink of an eye, pulling me into a coconut-scented hug that seems incongruous here at the center of Alaska. It’s also strangely comforting.
“It sucks, Grace. The whole thing just totally sucks, and I wish I could make it better. I wish I could just wave a wand and put everything back the way it used to be.”
I nod because there’s a lump in my throat. And because there’s nothing else to say. Except that I wish for that, too.
I wish that the last words my parents and I spoke weren’t hurled at each other in a fight that seems so stupid now.
I wish that my dad hadn’t lost control of the car two hours later and driven himself and my mother off a cliff, plunging hundreds of feet into the ocean.
Most of all, I wish that I could smell my mother’s perfume or hear the deep rumble of my father’s voice just one more time.
I let Macy hug me as long as I can stand it—which is only about five seconds or so—and then I pull away. I’ve never particularly liked being touched, and it’s only gotten worse since my parents died.
“Thanks for—” I gesture to the bed and closet. “All of this.”
“Of course. And I want you to know, if you ever need to talk or whatever, I’m here. I know it’s not the same, because my mom left; she didn’t die.” She swallows hard, takes a deep breath before continuing. “But I know what it’s like to feel alone. And I’m a good listener.”
It’s the first time she’s actually used the word “die.” The first time she’s actually acknowledged what happened to my parents by name. The fact that she has makes it so much easier to say, “Thank you,” and mean it, even as I remember that Jaxon didn’t shy away from it, either. He might have been a jackass all the way around, but he called my parents’ death what it was. And didn’t treat me like I was going to shatter under the weight of one harsh word.
Maybe that’s why I’m still thinking about him when I should be writing him off for the jerk he is.
She nods, watching me out of worried eyes that only make me feel worse.
“I should probably get unpacked.” I look down at my suitcases with distaste. It feels like I just packed them. The last thing I want to do is empty them right now. Not when my electric-pink bed is calling me like a beacon.
“I can totally help with that.” She points at a door across the room. “Why don’t you go take a shower and get into your pajamas? I’ll check on the soup my dad said he sent up. Then you can eat, take some Advil, and get some rest. Hopefully, when you wake up, you’ll be better acclimated to the altitude.”
“That sounds…” I really do feel crappy, and a shower sounds amazing. As does sleep, considering I’ve been so nervous about the move that I haven’t gotten much in the last week or so.
“Perfect, right?” She fills in the blank.
“It really does, yeah.”
“Good.” She walks to her closet and pulls out a couple extra towels. “If you want to hop in the shower, I’ll get you some warm soup and hopefully, in half an hour, this whole day will feel a lot better.”
“Thanks, Macy.” I turn to look at her. “I mean it.”
A grin splits her face and lights up her eyes. “You’re welcome.”
Fifteen minutes later, I’m out of the shower and dressed in my favorite pair of pajamas—a Harry Styles T-shirt from his first solo tour and a pair of blue fleece pants with white and yellow daisies all over them—only to find Macy dancing around the room to “Watermelon Sugar.”