Had dreadlocks and tattoos on his hands and wore ripped jeans and dirty t-shirts. Our mom didn’t like him—at all. Whenever he was over, she’d eye the ceiling, like she knew what was going on in my sister’s bedroom. I knew what mom thought they were doing. But I checked, and it wasn’t anything all that exciting. My sister was laying on her bed, playing with her phone. He sat on the floor, guitar cradled on his lap, one leg outstretched, fingers picking their way along the strings like long spiders. Sometimes, he’d close his eyes, body swaying with whatever he heard in his head.
One time, he caught me spying. I froze, not able to will my legs into moving, into scurrying back to my own room. My sister was going to be so pissed. But he just smiled, quietly and without judgement, his fingers never pausing. Heat flooded my face and I fled.
I tried avoiding him, but he was always at our house. Didn’t he have any other friends? His own house? A job? Probably not a job—I’d overheard Mom calling him a deadbeat mooch. I didn’t think he was a deadbeat. He probably had cool gigs to play at night with his band.
We ran into each other in the upstairs hallway, a short stretch of carpet between her room and mine. Guess we were both trying to get to the bathroom.
He stopped, and I stopped.
He leaned against the balcony railing, all slouchy grace and teenage limbs.
“I’m not a kid.” I flushed at the way it came out—petulant.