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Sweet Filthy Boy(2)

By:Christina Lauren



“And,” I add, though I know this is the point where I should shut up, “now I can pursue a real career and contribute meaningfully to society.”

Don’t poke the bear, Mia, I think.

“Jesus,” she says. “It’s like he loves to hit you right where it hurts. That man lettered in being an asshole.”

This makes us all laugh, and we seem to agree to move on because, really, what else can we say? My dad is kind of an ass, and even getting his way when it comes to my life decisions doesn’t seem to change that.

The traffic is light and the city rises up out of the flat earth, a tangled cluster of lights glaringly bright in the fading sunset. With each mile the air grows cooler, and I sense a rebound of energy in the car when Harlow sits up straighter and puts on a new playlist for our final stretch. In the backseat, I wiggle, dancing, singing along to the catchy, bass-heavy pop song.

“Are my girls ready to get a little wild?” she asks, pulling the passenger sun visor down to apply lip gloss in the tiny, cracked mirror.

“Nope.” Lola merges onto East Flamingo Road. Just beyond, the Strip spreads brightly, a carpet of lights and blasting horns rolling out before us. “But for you? I’ll do gross shots and dance with questionably sober men.”

I nod, wrapping my arms around Harlow from behind and squeezing. She pretends to choke, but puts her hand over mine so I can’t get away. No one rejects cuddles less convincingly than Harlow.

“I love you psychos,” I say, and even though with anyone else, the words would get lost in the wind and street dust blowing into the car, Harlow bends to kiss my hand and Lola glances over to smile at me. It’s like they’re programmed to ignore my long pauses and pluck my voice out of chaos.

“You have to make me a promise, Mia,” Lola says. “Are you listening?”

“This doesn’t involve me running off and becoming a showgirl, does it?”

“Sadly no.”

We’ve been planning this trip for months—one last rush before grown-up life and responsibility catch up with us. I’m ready for whatever she’s got for me. I stretch my neck, take a deep breath, pretend to crack my knuckles. “Too bad. I could work a pole like you don’t even know. But okay, hit me.”

“Leave everything else back in San Diego tonight,” she says. “Don’t worry about your dad or which fangirl Luke is banging this weekend.”

My stomach tilts slightly at this mention of my ex, even though we parted on good terms nearly two years ago. It’s just that Luke was my first, I was his, and we learned everything together. I feel like I should be earning royalties on his current parade of conquests.

Lola continues. “Don’t think about packing for Boston. Don’t think about anything but the fact that we’re done with college—college, Mia! We did it. Just put the rest of it in a proverbial box and shove it under the proverbial bed.”

“I like this talk of shoving and beds,” Harlow says.

Under any other circumstance, this would have made me laugh. But as unintentional as it may have been, Lola’s mention of Boston has just obliterated the tiny window of anxiety-free space I’d somehow managed to find. It immediately dwarfs any discomfort I felt over the subject of my dad’s early departure from the biggest ceremony of my life or Luke and his newfound slutty side. I have a rising tide of panic about the future, and now that we’ve graduated, it’s impossible to ignore it anymore. Every time I think about what comes next, my stomach turns inside out, ignites, chars. The feeling happens so much these days I feel like I should give it a name.

In three weeks I’m leaving for Boston, to business school of all places, and about as far from my childhood dreams as I could have imagined. I’ll have plenty of time to find an apartment and a job that will pay my bills and accommodate a full schedule of classes in the fall when I finally do what my father has always wanted and join the river of business-types doing business things. He’s even paying for my apartment, happily. “Two bedrooms,” he’d insisted, magnanimously, “so your mother and I and the boys can visit.”

“Mia?” Lola prompts.

“Okay,” I say and nod, wondering when, out of the three of us, I became the person with so much baggage. Lola’s dad is a war veteran. Harlow’s parents are Hollywood. I’m just the girl from La Jolla who used to dance. “I’m shoving it under the proverbial bed.” Saying the words out loud seems to put more weight behind them. “I’ll put it into the box with Harlow’s scary sex toys.”

Harlow throws me a sassy kiss and Lola nods, resolute. Lola knows better than any of us about stress and responsibility, but if she can put it away for the weekend, I can, too.

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