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Kissing Lessons
Author: Sophie Jordan


Lesson #1

Parties are the Perfect Hunting Ground.

x Hayden x

Hayden was having serious doubts about this party.

It was a big gathering, spilling out onto the front yard and into the cul-de-sac. The number of people on the lawn wouldn’t even fit crammed inside her small house. Big parties likes this usually got shut down because someone called the police. It would be a shame if that happened. Her hair and makeup were on point tonight. If she went home early, it was a lot of effort for nothing.

Hayden stood on the sidewalk contemplating whether it was worth going inside, watching as girls stood shivering in their skirts and strappy tops. It was January and forty-five degrees, but hypothermia clearly didn’t worry them.

High school parties (and parties in general) weren’t usually her thing, but Dorian had begged her to come.

Dorian was a guy in her health class. Coach Alvarez teamed up students for a lot of the assignments and Dorian had appointed himself her partner in all things.

They’d made out a couple times in the east stairwell. He was cute and linebacker big, even though he played tennis. Good hair. Long on the top. High and tight on the sides. He smelled nice. Hayden appreciated a well-groomed guy who smelled of deodorant and mint toothpaste.

This week he had brought her a brownie. A brownie wrapped in foil. His mom made them. Dorian had a mom who baked brownies. God. As if that didn’t scream they were from two different worlds. But Dorian was cute and into her, so hooking up was pretty inevitable. Dating, however, was not. Not even all the homemade brownies in the world could change that.

He’d been bugging her to hang out more outside of school. He asked her out on dates. Never mind that she didn’t date. He even hinted about the winter formal in February. A dance. As if she would go to one of those.

She knew what it all meant. He was interested in taking their stairwell make-out sessions to the next level. And while there would never be anything serious between them, she’d caved and agreed to meet him at this party.

Her gaze swept over the scene spread out before her. The beautiful, popular people were in attendance. The people who had their own lunch tables and moms that made brownies. She didn’t belong here. And she didn’t think that with any amount of bitterness. She didn’t want to belong here. High school was just this thing she had to get through to arrive at the next stage in life.

Hopefully, a better stage.

There had to be a better stage.

She only had to make it until June and she’d be out. Away. Free.

As Hayden turned off the sidewalk onto the front walkway, a gorilla of a guy ran out the front door chasing a girl with a pitcher of water. The girl shrieked delightedly and let herself get caught. One of his gorilla arms wrapped around her waist and lifted her off her feet. She squealed as he dumped the water down the front of her white shirt, soaking her. She laughed, spreading her arms wide and showcasing her boobs now on full display through her transparent tee. With a Tarzan shout, he tossed her over his shoulder and marched back into the house with her.

Hayden expelled a heavy breath. Punch me. Hard.

This was not her scene. She didn’t get a lot of nights off from work, and this wasn’t how she preferred to spend them. She should have agreed to meet Dorian somewhere else.

She should have known better. Boredom propelled her, she guessed. And avoidance. She really didn’t want to deal with Mom, who apparently had no plans for the night and was staying in. So here she was.

Stepping inside the loud and crowded party, Hayden scanned faces for Dorian.

She spotted the majority of the football team along with its cheerleaders milling about. There were also the basketball players, baseball players, and soccer players. All the athletes. Funny how they mattered so much in high school. As though they would all grow up to compete in the Olympics instead of being ordinary people living ordinary lives. Less than ordinary, if her mother was any indication of a Travis High School star athlete.

Mom still held the district record for the eight hundred meters, and last week Hayden found her passed out in the driveway, still sitting in the driver’s seat with the car running. Her snores could be heard through the glass. Hayden almost had to break the window to rouse her.

“Hey! Hayden!”

She turned sharply, the sound of her name startling over the din of music and voices. She didn’t expect to know many people here. That was the benefit of attending a large school. You could be a stranger among your own classmates. A ghost in the halls. Faces were familiar but names unknown.

Her gaze landed on a skinny kid. She didn’t know his name, but she’d seen him with Dorian before.

“You looking for Dorian?” he called. Apparently he knew more about her than her name if he knew she was here for Dorian.

She nodded and he jerked a thumb behind him, toward a hallway. “That way. Through the mudroom and into the garage.”

“Thanks.” She passed him, heading in the direction he’d motioned, ignoring a drunken guy stumbling across her path. Beer sloshed over the rim of his cup, soaking the front of his sweater, but he didn’t care.

He stopped hard at the sight of her. “Hey, girl.” His chest puffed out, drawing attention to the dark beer stain that resembled the shape of Florida. “You looking for me? You must be.” He belched and gave a smile she knew he thought was seductive and not total ridiculousness.

Sidestepping him, she debated whether to continue on to the mudroom. The night wasn’t off to a great start. Except she’d come all this way, so she might as well let Dorian know she’d made the effort.

She was almost to the mudroom when her phone started vibrating. Hayden paused and pulled it from her pocket, sighing when she read her mom’s name. She could ignore her, but she would just keep calling. Or worse. Her mom might even get in her car and track her down using the app she’d installed on Hayden’s phone. She’d done it before. Sharon loathed being ignored.

“Hey, Mom.” She couldn’t hide the lack of enthusiasm in her voice.

“Hayden, I need you to bring home some pizzas. Three. No! Four. I invited some friends over.” From the slur of her mom’s words, she could tell she didn’t have to worry about her mom noticing her lack of enthusiasm. She was well on her way to forgetting her own name.

“I’m not at work, Mom.” She worked at the Tasty Freeze, but they shared a building with Tony’s Pizza. It worked out well for the two businesses. People loved to grab a cone after their pizza.

“Oh. Well, so what? Swing by and get a few pepperonis.”

“Mom, I don’t have any cash on me—”

“Oh, your boss likes you—”

“I don’t get free food, Mom.” She’d explained to her mother before that she didn’t work at Tony’s and that even if she did, the manager there didn’t give free food to employees either.

“Look, I put a roof over your head, don’t I?” Her voice turned shrill in her ear. “Pick up some pizzas or there will be hell to pay.”

There was always hell to pay. Even when she did what her mom wanted. Of course, it wouldn’t do any good to say something like that. Those were fighting words, and Sharon loved nothing more than a fight.

Hayden closed her eyes. Just one more semester. Just one more semester. “I’ll do what I can.”

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