By: Colleen Hoover

For Vance.

Some fathers give you life. Some show you how to live it. Thank you for showing me how to live mine.

I stand up and look down at the bed, holding my breath in fear of the sounds that are escalating from deep within my throat.

I will not cry.

I will not cry.

Slowly sinking to my knees, I place my hands on the edge of the bed and run my fingers over the yellow stars poured across the deep blue background of the comforter. I stare at the stars until they begin to blur from the tears that are clouding my vision.

I squeeze my eyes shut and bury my head into the bed, grabbing fistfuls of the blanket. My shoulders begin to shake as the sobs I’ve been trying to contain violently break out of me. With one swift movement, I stand up, scream and rip the blanket off the bed, throwing it across the room.

I ball my fists and frantically look around for something else to throw. I grab the pillows off the bed and chuck them at the reflection in the mirror of the girl I no longer know. I watch as the girl in the mirror stares back at me, sobbing pathetically. The weakness in her tears infuriates me. We begin to run toward each other until our fists collide against the glass, smashing the mirror. I watch as she falls into a million shiny pieces onto the carpet.

I grip the edges of the dresser and push it sideways, letting out another scream that has been pent up for way too long. When the dresser comes to rest on its back, I rip open the drawers and throw the contents across the room, spinning and throwing and kicking at everything in my path. I grab at the sheer blue curtain panels and yank them until the rod snaps and the curtains fall around me. I reach over to the boxes piled high in the corner and, without even knowing what’s inside, I take the top one and throw it against the wall with as much force as my five foot, three-inch frame can muster.

“I hate you!” I cry. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!”

I’m throwing whatever I can find in front of me at whatever else I can find in front of me. Every time I open my mouth to scream, I taste the salt from the tears that are streaming down my cheeks.

Holder’s arms suddenly engulf me from behind and grip me so tightly I become immobile. I jerk and toss and scream some more until my actions are no longer thought out. They’re just reactions.

“Stop,” he says calmly against my ear, unwilling to release me. I hear him, but I pretend not to. Or I just don’t care. I continue to struggle against his grasp but he only tightens his grip.

“Don’t touch me!” I yell at the top of my lungs, clawing at his arms. Again, it doesn’t faze him.

Don’t touch me. Please, please, please.

The small voice echoes in my mind and I immediately become limp in his arms. I become weaker as my tears grow stronger, consuming me. I become nothing more than a vessel for the tears that won’t stop shedding.

I am weak, and I’m letting him win.

Holder loosens his grip around me and places his hands on my shoulders, then turns me around to face him. I can’t even look at him. I melt against his chest from exhaustion and defeat, taking in fistfuls of his shirt as I sob, my cheek pressed against his heart. He places his hand on the back of my head and lowers his mouth to my ear.

“Sky.” His voice is steady and unaffected. “You need to leave. Now.”

Two months earlier…

I’d like to think most of the decisions I’ve made throughout my seventeen years have been smart ones. Hopefully intelligence is measured by weight, and the few dumb decisions I’ve made will be outweighed by the intelligent ones. If that’s the case, I’ll need to make a shitload of smart decisions tomorrow because sneaking Grayson into my bedroom window for the third time this month weighs pretty heavily on the dumb side of the scale. However, the only accurate measurement of a decision’s level of stupidity is time…so I guess I’ll wait and see if I get caught before I break out the gavel.

Despite what this may look like, I am not a slut. Unless, of course, the definition of slut is based on the fact that I make out with lots of people, regardless of my lack of attraction for them. In that case, one might have grounds for debate.

“Hurry,” Grayson mouths behind the closed window, obviously irritated at my lack of urgency.

I unlock the latch and slide the window up as quietly as possible. Karen may be an unconventional parent, but when it comes to boys sneaking through bedroom windows at midnight, she’s your typical, disapproving mother.

“Quiet,” I whisper. Grayson hoists himself up and throws one leg over the ledge, then climbs into my bedroom. It helps that the windows on this side of the house are barely three feet from the ground; it’s almost like having my own door. In fact, Six and I have probably used our windows to go back and forth to each other’s houses more than we’ve used actual doors. Karen has become so used to it, she doesn’t even question my window being open the majority of the time.

Before I close the curtain, I glance to Six’s bedroom window. She waves at me with one hand while pulling on Jaxon’s arm with the other as he climbs into her bedroom. As soon as Jaxon is safely inside, he turns and sticks his head back out the window. “Meet me at your truck in an hour,” he whispers loudly to Grayson. He closes Six’s window and shuts her curtains.

Six and I have been joined at the hip since the day she moved in next door four years ago. Our bedroom windows are adjacent to one another, which has proven to be extremely convenient. Things started out innocently enough. When we were fourteen, I would sneak into her room at night and we would steal ice cream from the freezer and watch movies. When we were fifteen, we started sneaking boys in to eat ice cream and watch movies with us. By the time we were sixteen, the ice cream and movies took a backseat to the boys. Now, at seventeen, we don’t even bother leaving our respective bedrooms until after the boys go home. That’s when the ice cream and movies take precedence again.

Six goes through boyfriends like I go through flavors of ice cream. Right now her flavor of the month is Jaxon. Mine is Rocky Road. Grayson and Jaxon are best friends, which is how Grayson and I were initially thrown together. When Six’s flavor of the month has a hot best friend, she eases him into my graces. Grayson is definitely hot. He’s got an undeniably great body, perfectly sloppy hair, piercing dark eyes…the works. The majority of girls I know would feel privileged just to be in the same room as him.

It’s too bad I don’t.

I close the curtains and spin around to find Grayson inches from my face, ready to get the show started. He places his hands on my cheeks and flashes his panty-dropping grin. “Hey, beautiful.” He doesn’t give me a chance to respond before his lips greet mine in a sloppy introduction. He continues kissing me while slipping off his shoes. He slides them off effortlessly while we both walk toward my bed, mouths still meshed together. The ease at which he does both things simultaneously is impressive and disturbing. He slowly eases me back onto my bed. “Is your door locked?”

“Go double check,” I say. He gives me a quick peck on the lips before he hops up to ensure the door is locked. I’ve made it thirteen years with Karen and have never been grounded; I don’t want to give her any reason to start now. I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks and even then, I doubt she’ll change her parenting style as long as I’m under her roof.

Not that her parenting style is a negative one. It’s just…very contradictory. She’s been strict my whole life. We’ve never had access to the internet, cell phones or even a television because she believes technology is the root of all evil in the world. Yet, she’s extremely lenient in other regards. She allows me to go out with Six whenever I want, and as long as she knows where I am, I don’t even really have a curfew. I’ve never pushed that one too far, though, so maybe I do have a curfew and I just don’t realize it.

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