My knees trembled as he slid past them in the darkness making his way to the empty seat on the other side of Victoria.
I wanted to smack the look of joy off of her face. When Elec leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, my appetite for the popcorn transformed quickly into nausea. I handed Bentley the bag and pretended to be interested in the movie. In all honesty, I was staring straight at the screen, but Drew Barrymore might as well have been speaking Mandarin Chinese.
All I was really doing was ruminating and breathing in Elec’s scent. His presence had made me angrier than I anticipated it would.
At one point, Bentley grabbed my hand and wrapped it inside his. I froze.
Victoria, who had downed a giant Diet Coke before Elec arrived, whispered in my ear that she was going to the bathroom.
My heart began to pound faster once she left because there was no longer anything blocking my view of him. I could feel from the corner of my eyes that he was looking at me. Despite laughter erupting around me from the audience, the weight of his stare seemed to drown it all out. I wouldn’t look at him or even move.
Just keep staring at the screen, Greta.
My phone vibrated on my leg.
Are you practicing to be a store window mannequin?
I couldn’t exactly respond to the text because Bentley would have seen me. I did, however, look over at Elec and regretted it. His normally unruly hair was gelled and styled. He was also more dressed up than normal in dark jeans and a leather jacket.
His mouth spread into a rare genuine smile that made me feel as if something were squeezing at my heart. Then, he chuckled, causing me to laugh at myself, too. He was right. I had been sitting there stiff as a board tonight. I was acting ridiculous.
Victoria interrupted my moment with Elec when she slid past my legs and sat down, once again obstructing my view. She leaned into him, and that was my cue to stare back at the screen.
I wanted to be the one with him.
It didn’t make sense, but it was proof that desire and logic were two very separate things.
What if Victoria tried to kiss him tonight? What if he responded? I couldn’t deal with this jealousy already, and nothing had even happened yet. His dating girls from school had become something I’d forced myself to accept. I mean, he was my stepbrother, supposedly disliked me and would be moving back to California after graduation. The reality was, nothing could ever happen between us. Despite that, his messing around with my best friend would not be okay for me. She’d tell me every last detail and wouldn’t hold back.
Somewhere in the midst of my thoughts, the movie finally finished. Drew Barrymore was smiling, so it must have been a happy ending.
Bentley’s hand rested on my lower back as we exited the theater. In the bright florescent lights of the crowded lobby, Elec looked even more stunning. Victoria grabbed onto his arm possessively. I wanted to hate her for it, but she had no clue about my feelings for him.
This situation was overwhelming me. I needed to be alone for a few minutes. “Guys, I’m just gonna go freshen up. You should decide where we’re going to eat.”
Upon entering the safety of the bathroom, I let out a deep breath. After I peed and washed my hands, I was reluctant to head back outside, so I stayed staring at myself in the mirror.
Anger and frustration coursed through me the more I thought about this fucked up date. I picked up my phone and texted Elec.
Why are you really here? Do you even like Victoria?
I immediately regretted that impulsive move. My phone vibrated.
Elec: What if I do?
Wishing I’d never said anything, I had no answer and just stared at my phone. He texted again.
Elec: I don’t.
I hadn’t realized I was holding in so much breath until a massive sigh of relief escaped me.
Greta: Then, why are you here?
Elec: To get a rise out of you.
Elec: Because I get off on it.
Elec: I can’t answer that question any more than you can tell me why you look at me the way you do even though I’ve treated you like shit.
Oh. God. Until now, I hadn’t realized how obvious my feelings were, how stupid and desperate I must have looked to him all this time.
Elec: Have some self-respect.
What. The. Fuck. Now, he’d seriously pissed me off. Wow.
Greta: Don’t worry. I won’t be looking at you anymore.
I just couldn’t believe he’d said that to me. My eyes started to water, but I was determined not to let him see me upset. It took a few minutes to compose myself before walking back out to the lobby. As hard as it was, I refused to look at him. Refused.
“What the heck took you so long?” Bentley asked.
“I ran into a little glitch. But it’s over.”
Victoria put her hand on my shoulder. “Everything okay?”
“Yup. Let’s go.”
Victoria and Elec walked in front of us. She was still hanging onto his arm while both of his hands were in his pockets.
The four of us packed into Bentley’s Prius and drove to an all-night diner. Avoiding my stepbrother became a much bigger challenge in the confines of a small booth where he was sitting right across from me. Still, I kept to my word. I’d focus on his sleeve tattoo or play with the salt shakers but never looked up. I pretended to enjoy being immersed in conversation with Bentley, who was sitting to my left.
We ordered our food, and so far, I’d been successful in not making eye contact with Elec.
“So, Greta, there’s this party next Friday at Alex Franco’s house. I wanted you to come with me,” Bentley said.
“Sure. Sounds like fun.”
“Good.” He leaned in and lightly kissed the side of my face.
Elec was mindlessly playing with some sugar packets. If I were Victoria, I’d find it peculiar that my “date” wasn’t even talking to me. But what did I know?
She tried to make conversation. “Elec, what are your plans after graduation?”
“To get the hell out of Boston.”
And that was all she got.
A few minutes later, he seemed to be texting under the table.
Then, my phone vibrated.
Bet I can get you to look at me.
I ignored him and didn’t text back.
A few seconds later, our food arrived, and we all dug in. I was happily ensconced in my pancakes when I heard Elec say to Victoria, “You have some milkshake right there.”
“Here,” he said before pulling her into him and tongue kissing her right in front of me. I watched in horror as he did to her mouth, the same things he’d done to mine during the encounter at the cafe. My face burned up in anger as he slowly and sensually moved his mouth over hers.
“Damn, you two, get a room,” Bentley said.
When Elec finally backed away, Victoria covered her mouth and said, “Wow…and here I was, thinking you weren’t interested.” She laughed.
My stare burned into Elec’s, and he silently mouthed, “Told you.”
“Excuse me,” I said to Bentley as I exited the booth and promptly asked the waitress where I could find the bathroom. Before I could grab my bearings, Victoria came in after me.
“What was that?” she asked.
I leaned against the sink. “What was what?”
“That whole thing…Elec kissing me like that, and then you running off. Did it upset you that he kissed me?”
I dodged the inquiry. “He can do whatever he wants. He just bugs me.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Sure, why don’t I just admit that I’m obsessed with my stepbrother, so much so, that it turned me on a little watching him kiss you, because everything he does seems to make my body react.
“You know things between him and me are rocky, Vic. I also don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Don’t worry. I’m a big girl. I’m just having a little fun. I know he’s leaving.”
This was exactly what I was afraid of.
“Don’t mind me, okay? Elec just gets under my skin. It’s no big deal. I just needed a breather.”
“Okay, if you say so.” She crossed her arms. “Are you feeling good about Bentley, though?”
“We’ll see. He’s…nice. I think I’ll definitely give him a chance.”
When Victoria hugged me, I could smell Elec on her, and it made me crazy. It was my reaction to that whiff of smoky musk that served to remind me that he was driving me insane and that it needed to end. I vowed in that moment to do whatever it took to shake this thing I had for him.
“You ready to go back out?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded and took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m ready.”
The events that took place next seemed to occur in rapid succession. As we walked back toward the booth, I heard silverware flying and then a loud crashing sound. A crowd of people gasped before I caught sight of Bentley on the ground and Elec kicking the shit out of him. Bentley’s face was bloody, and Elec’s mouth was also bleeding.
“Elec, what are you doing?!” I screamed.