I thought I felt foolish about being younger. But that was before I made a floor display of every cliché low-self-esteem brochure printed in the state of Oklahoma. Naturally, the most embarrassing one is in Ty’s hands right now.
“How to Love Yourself So Others Will Too,” Ty reads, flipping the book in his hands and skimming his eyes over the description on the back. I take this opportunity to scoop everything else up in my arms and sit on the floor with my legs crossed, quickly stuffing things back in my bag. “Oh, this is good. Wait, listen to this one…”
He starts to quote a few of the passages, mocking the stereotypical affirmations and examples in the book. I know they’re stupid—and hearing them now, I’m not sure why I picked the book up. But reading it made me feel good an hour or two ago. “Wow, what class is making you read this shit?” he asks, finally putting the book down. His laughter cuts short when he sees me, my eyes buried in my lap.
“It’s not for a class,” I say, looking up long enough to get the book from him. “My stuff’s in the dryer. Just…just knock on my door when it buzzes done.” I leave quickly, clutching my things close to my chest and feeling ridiculous.
I don’t bother to zip my bag up again, instead carrying it all into my room and letting everything spill out into a pile on my bed. I don’t know what made me check all of these things out. It all started with the book Ty was reading, actually. My hands gravitated to it while I was looking through some of the health and wellness books. At first, my attraction was the same as Ty’s—I found the book amusing. But some of those cheesy sayings actually rang true, especially the ones about feeling inferior to siblings and how we use self-deprecating humor as a crutch. Next thing I knew…I had two books, four magazines, and a dozen brochures.
Ty’s knock on my door is soft. I hadn’t shut it all the way when I walked in, so he takes advantage and comes all the way into my room with little warning.
“Dry already?” I ask, doing my best to pretend none of that happened. I pick the pillow up from my lap, laying it over the embarrassing evidence.
“No,” Ty responds, moving closer until he’s at the foot of my bed. Without pause, he slides from his chair to the bed until he’s sitting next to me. He picks up the pillow, and my stomach sinks. His smile is soft as he scoops everything into my bag, and slides it all to the floor, closing the distance between us even more until his hand is suddenly cradling my cheek.
“Just so we’re clear here, I mean this,” he says, pressing his lips softly against mine as his other hand moves to my chin, tilting my mouth toward him. I’ve been kissed by some pretty convincing boys in my life, each one wanting to make me believe something by the way their mouth worked against mine, the way their tongues coaxed their way inside. This one kiss from Ty was like removing a blindfold.
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