Home > A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime(9)

A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime(9)
Author: Monica Murphy

He didn’t necessarily say that, but when I asked him about it and he didn’t deny it, I can only assume.

Something I hate doing, but I did anyway—and mentioned it to Skov too. Her skeptical look told me she wasn’t falling for it, but whatever. I was trying to think up every reason imaginable why I didn’t want to work with Crew.

And I’m still stuck with him.

Stuck with his hateful attitude and his mocking gaze. His disgusting vocabulary and the way he looks at me. Like he can see right through me.

I hate that most of all.

I dash away another streak of tears, sniffing loudly.


Turning, I spot Mr. Figueroa standing in the open doorway of the faculty room.

“Oh.” I come to a stop, hoping that I don’t look too terribly upset. “Hi, Mr. Figueroa.”

Slowly he approaches me, his brows lowered in concern. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” I smile, hating how my chin wobbles. Like I’m going to burst into sobs at any second. “I just—had a rough afternoon.”

“Want to tell me about it?”

I shouldn’t. He doesn’t need to know about my problem with Crew, or with Ms. Skov. But the moment he asks, showing that he cares, I start talking.

And don’t finish until I’ve told him everything that happened during seventh period, leaving out some of the more embarrassing parts. Like Crew asking if I’ve ever been kissed.

As if it’s any of his business. Besides, the answer is no, and if I told him that, he’d laugh at me and then would go and tell all of his friends. It would spread like wildfire that it’s been confirmed—Wren Beaumont has never kissed a boy. Has never kissed anyone.

Though everyone probably already thinks that. They know how I feel about sex and relationships. I wear my virgin badge proudly, because why not? Societal pressure is too strong on girls. It’s downright crushing. And we need to take ownership of our bodies in any way that we can.

I don’t like being made to feel stupid for doing what I believe is right for me. Crew Lancaster has no business looking down upon me for not having sex. Just because he so easily gives himself away to whoever wants him doesn’t make him a better person than I am.

Of course, the idea of Crew “giving himself away” to another girl has my curious mind whirring. I’ve seen him with his shirt off—last spring, near the end of school, when all the boys were out on the field, running around and goofing off as boys do. I sat in the bleachers with my friends, my gaze snagging on him when he ripped off his shirt, revealing tanned, smoothed skin stretched taut over lean, rippling muscle.

My mouth had gone dry. My heart started to race. And he glanced over at me, our gazes locking, as if he knew what sort of effect he had on me.

I banish the thought, refocusing on my teacher, the concern etched on Fig’s face as I spill my story, his gaze warm and comforting. About halfway through my story, he put his arm around my shoulders, his touch loose as he steered me into the faculty room, which was blessedly empty. He sat me down at one of the tables, sitting right next to me. And when I finished, he patted my arm in reassurance, exhaling loudly.

“You want me to talk to Anne?”

I blink at him, realizing he’s referring to Ms. Skov. I never think of her first name. She’s just Skov to me. “I’m not sure if you should.”

“I could put in a good word for you. Anne and I are pretty close. She’ll listen to me.” He settles his hand on my forearm, where it rests on the table, giving me a reassuring squeeze. “You shouldn’t have to be tormented by Lancaster these next few weeks. You’re under enough pressure as it is.”

The relief that floods me at his understanding words is so strong I almost want to start crying all over again. “I’m under so much pressure. There’s a lot going on right now.”

“Did you turn in your college applications already?”

I nod, appreciating that’s the first thing he thought to ask me. The college thing causes a lot of stress, for so many of us. Most of the teachers seem to forget, piling on the work like we can handle it when most of us are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

“That’s good. I’m sure you have a few final projects and tests, including mine.” His smile is soft. “Which you’ll do fine with. You always do.”

“I’m excited to read the book.”

“I’m sure you are.” He removes his hand from my arm and leans back, glancing about the room. “I’ll talk to Anne. And maybe I’ll even talk to Crew as well.”

“What? No.” I hurriedly shake my head, ignoring the surprised expression on his face. “I’m serious, please don’t bring this up to him. I don’t want you drawn into this mess.”

“I’m already drawn in. I want to help you.” His jaw hardens. It’s the most ferocious I think I’ve ever seen Fig look. “Guys like him get away with everything. Like they’re untouchable, never thinking of how they affect other people.”

“It’s fine—”

“No, Wren. It’s not fine. I won’t stand by and let him hurt you repeatedly.”

I press my lips together, worry making my insides twist. I don’t want him talking to Crew about me. I can only imagine what Crew would say to him. What he would eventually say to me. Something about me sending my watchdog teacher on him or something like that. He’d call Fig all kinds of names and make fun of me, that mocking gaze never looking away from mine.

That’s the last thing I want.

“Please, Fig.” It’s my turn to reach out and touch him, and he drops his head, taking in my hand resting on his arm before he lifts his gaze to mine. “Please don’t talk to him. I can handle Crew on my own. But if you could put in a good word to Ms. Skov about my switching partners, that would be wonderful.”

His brown eyes are steady as he watches me, and I can tell from the stern look on his face that he’s displeased with my request. “All right. I won’t talk to Crew. But I will speak with Anne. I’m sure she’ll listen to reason.”

“Thank you.” I smile at Fig, shock coursing through me when he reaches for me, pulling me into his arms and giving me a hug.

It’s awkward and weird, since we’re both sitting down, and he’s my teacher, so I do my best to quickly disengage. A shaky breath leaves me and I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, all the air leaving me when I hear a familiar female voice screech.

“What the fuck, Fig?”

We both glance toward the door to find Maggie standing there, her mouth hanging open, her pale face suffused with red. Her narrowed gaze finds mine, and she glares, her expression full of hatred.

“Maggie.” His voice is steady as he rises to his feet. “Calm down. It’s not what you think.”

Maggie snorts, entering the faculty room as if she’s been in here a million times before. “Oh sure. More like it’s exactly what I think. This is how it starts, right, Fig? All sweet and kind and caring to that one student. Making her feel special. You ask her to be your TA, bring her in like the innocent lamb to slaughter, right before you go in for the kill.”

I leap out of my seat, eager to make my escape. “I need to go—”

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