“Are you high, Henna?”
“It’s Colorado. Everyone’s a mile high.” I continue working on a sketch I started several days ago.
He leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “You could get expelled.”
I nod slowly, shifting my focus to the paperweight on his desk. Do people really use paperweights? I always think of them as unsuspecting weapons in murder mysteries.
“Is that what you want? To get expelled?”
On a laugh, I shrug. “I don’t care. But they won’t expel me. It’s my last year. I’m the bane of Gail’s existence. She wants me out of here, but for good, not so I fail and have to come back yet another year. God …” I rest my head on the back of the chair, staring at the ceiling. I feel certain someone painted it as well. “I’m so sick of this place. There’s a whole big world out there and I’m stuck here.”
“You should go home.”
“Home? Nah … I’m good. I have automotive class. Lots of guys want to look under my hood.” I tip my head forward to watch Bodhi’s reaction.
The only part of him that reacts is the slight muscle twitch of his jaw. I think … Yeah, I’m definitely a wee bit high. It’s the best state of mind for handling my senior year.
“I read about your accident. I’m very sorry about your friend.”
Blinking at an extremely slow pace, I let my mind play with his confession. He read about me. Was that in a file? Or did he search up things about me? Do I care? Not at the moment. My breakfast cookie made sure of that. “Robbie was the daughter of one of Zachary’s friends.”
I nod, gaze unfocused on Bodhi’s desk. It’s a bit messy.
“Our birthdays were in the same month, so our dads arranged for us to go to a concert in L.A. A sweet sixteen gift. An unchaperoned concert. Sort of. Zachary seems to always have eyes on me.”
“We don’t have to talk about this. I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am. The anniversary of that day is this Friday. If you need to talk …”
“Nope.” I prop my feet up on his desk, filling in more details on my sketch. “Not about that anyway. Tell me about your summer?”
“Mine was crrraaazy. As you know, we went to Italy, then Monaco. I spent two weeks on a yacht. Parasailing, snorkeling, oh … and I made out with a guy. He might have been related to a prince or something. I don’t remember. But he wasn’t a good kisser like you. And the food was just meh. Lots of fish. I managed to score a pizza on shore from this little hole-in-the-wall place up the street from the church where Grace Kelly got married.”
I exhale slowly, feeling calm and snarky at the same time—an interesting state I’m not sure I’ve been in before. “How about you, Mr. Malone? Did you make out with someone this summer? Was she a better kisser than I am?”
“Where are your keys? You need to go home, but you can’t drive.”
I giggle. “You are right about that. I can’t drive. A—I don’t have keys because B—I don’t have a car because D or um … C—I don’t have a driver’s license. I like to walk. Sometimes I bike. Sometimes I …” I stare at his tie. “I bet you hate that tie. You’re not a tie person. No one who owns cowboy boots likes to wear a tie. Surfers don’t either. Which …” I hold up my finger.
“I’ll call your mom. Will that get you in trouble? I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
“Oh, that’s really sweet that you care if I get in trouble. That’s what made us so great. Henna and Bodhi.”
“I can tell her you have a stomach ache.”
I laugh. “She knows about the pot. She’s the one who gets it for me. I don’t have a stomach ache, but I’m really hungry. Whatcha got in your desk drawers? Chips? California veggie rolls?”
“Did you like it?”
His eyes narrow.
“Did you like kissing me? Did you like holding my hand? Holding me in your arms? Did you like us? I liked us … so much.” I change my mind. That cookie didn’t do shit for the pain today. Thinking of us makes me hurt all over, just like the regret I see on Bodhi’s face.
I’m ready for a nap and chips. I really want chips. They’d be much better than his sour face. Maybe he’s sucking on a lemon drop. God … I can taste the lemon in his mouth, the warmth of his breath, and the slide of his tongue.
He moves around the desk in front of me, leaning back on it, hands resting on either side of him. “Yes.”
“Yes,” I whisper, repeating his answer but not remembering the question.
“Yes, I liked us. Too much. Too soon. Too hard to explain, but yes … I liked every second with you. But …”
“Now we’re forbidden.” I scoot to the edge of my chair and look up at him. “Forbidden is thrilling.” I set my sketch pad and pencils on my lap and rest my hands on his legs.
He shakes his head, stopping the ascent of my hands with his hands. “Forbidden can ruin my life more than it’s already been ruined.”
“I’ll wait for you.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“It’s a year, not even a year. They can’t say anything if I’m no longer a student. You can travel the world with me. I want to step foot on every continent and immerse myself in as many different cultures as possible, learn different languages, and see life through a wider lens. And I want to do this before I go to college—if I go to college—or get married or have kids. We could do it together. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
Bodhi’s wince softens into a tiny smile. “It would be amazing. But it’s not an option for me. Not in this life.”
There’s a knock at the door. Bodhi stands to his full height and straightens his tie as he walks to the door.
“Mr. Malone, can you—” Gail pauses. “Henna.”
Bodhi clears his throat. “Henna and I were just talking about—”
“The accident.” Gail frowns. “I’m sorry. I know this Friday will make three years. I’m truly sorry, Henna. Has Mr. Malone been helpful? I don’t want to see you spiral downhill this year. We are here for you if you need help in any way.”
I need Bodhi’s lips on mine and his hands holding the weight of my breasts while his tongue flicks my nipples. I need his arms around me and his soft whisper in my ear calling me beautiful.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a bag of chips, would you?”
Her eyes narrow as Bodhi stifles a tiny laugh as a cough.
“No problem. Someone in my automotive class will have some.”
“Why are you in an automotive class?” she asks.
“Hot guys. Need I say more?”
Gail rolls her eyes. Bodhi doesn’t share her response. His subtle reaction involves muscle twitching and teeth grinding.
Gail sighs, never happy with my response, never happy with my total lack of interest in school. “Are you feeling okay? If not, you should go home.”
She knows I’m high, just like she knows my stepfather’s name is on the new gymnasium. The two facts are always at conflict. I don’t care. I should, but I don’t. There are too many days that I have no interest in graduating or doing what it takes to get the diploma. I want the world, my freedom, and a break from expectations.
Expulsion would be a gift.
“I’m good. Hungry but good.”
Gail adjusts her black-haired bun and pushes her white-framed glasses up her nose while sharing a look with Bodhi. “You should get back to class, Henna. Mr. Malone has other students.”
“I have fifteen minutes left of study hall.” I lean back in the chair again. “And no one else has knocked on Mr. Malone’s door except you.”
Gail purses her lips.
“Dr. Rafferty, I have a few things to finish discussing with Henna. I’ll make sure she’s not late to class.” Bodhi to the rescue.
I try and fail to not grin. And seriously … Dr. Rafferty? Is she really worthy of such respect?
“Thank you, Mr. Malone. Please come see me when you have a few spare minutes.”
She exits his office, making sure to leave his door wide open.
“Mr. Malone … Dr. Rafferty.” I snort. “Why do humans feel the need to be so damn formal? We all shit, fart, burp, and pick our noses. I’m sure even Dr. Rafferty has lost at least partial inhibition in the throes of sex. Do you think her husband says, ‘Dr. Rafferty, I’m about to come’?”
Bodhi takes a seat behind his desk again, twisting his lips to restrain his amusement. “Respect isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
“I would respect her more if she didn’t get such a stick-up-her-ass expression every time I call her Gail. Respect can be honored without the formalities. I just don’t like it when people need holes in their ego filled with stupid shit like Dr. Rafferty.”
Bodhi returns a soft expression, but he doesn’t say anything. Minutes pass as we sit in silence, and I respect him for that. He’s not condescending or trying to fix my problems. He doesn’t lecture me or rush me into sharing my feelings.