Holly Lay CC
Not a Single Lie
“What was your life like growing up?”
We were lying in my bed, having just fucked our brains out. My first hookup in like, forever. After what that last guy tried to pull I needed to take a break. But here’s the thing: I absolutely did not want to get into my so-called childhood. This was the part about sex I hated, the jagged intimacy of pillow talk. Apparently I was supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy. But instead I felt . . . twitchy.
As I stared at the ceiling in the dark, Josh rolled to his side and gently placed his arm across my chest. His bent leg crossed my lower body.
Trapped, I tried not to squirm. “You go first.” After I heard about his childhood I’d decide whether I wanted to get into it at all. I could always make something up. Hardly anyone knew about my childhood, and I doubted I wanted to add him to that brief list. You only had to tell someone so many times and have them freak out before you learned to keep your mouth shut.
He leaned over and kissed my neck. “Not much to say, Jemma. Really kind of boring.”
I glanced at the clock—eleven-twenty—then at the window. The mouse-colored light of the streetlamps illuminated the heavy falling snow. “Tell me anyway,” I said, buying time. “I still want to know.”
“Can we turn the light on for a sec?”
“I’d rather not.” I had a policy that hookups did not get to see my body in the light. The tats were one thing, but the scars? Not gonna happen. I wasn’t prepared for that level of closeness. “You were about to tell about your—”
“Oh yeah. Right. Well, I grew up in Denver. Jewish family, middle child. I have an older brother and younger sister. Very normal. Very boring. My dad was a prosecutor—”
Shit, the kind of guy that put Jamie away. Granted, Jamie did need to be put away after that second . . . incident. A twinge of guilt zinged through me. When had I last had contact with my younger brother, rotting away in a prison cell outside of Vegas? No way I could visit, but would it kill me to call?
“—and my mom stayed home. Until I was sixteen, when she said she’d had enough of dad’s being gone all the time.”
She jerked back into the conversation. “Meaning what?”
“Dad was always working. Even at home he was constantly on his phone with work. So, like, never available.”
At least he had a dad. And a mom—who stayed at home. He’d hit the lottery. “What happened after that?” I was dying to get out from under him. Before my body imploded.
“They got divorced. On weekends my sister and I would go stay with Dad. I think we spent more time with him after the divorce than before.”
Although I was looking for guys who were more normal, this guy sounded too normal. Give me a weed-dealing biker any day. Or maybe I should just stick with women. But they wanted to know even more about you than this guy did.
“Okay, now it’s your turn.”
Shit. “I need to pee first.” Time for some mental excavation.
He removed his arm and leg and set me free. I slipped into the bathroom, perplexed about what to do. I didn’t want anything more than what I’d just had with this guy, but he seemed to actually like me. And I would bump into him at work, so I needed to end things so it wasn’t awkward with him. I studied my face in the mirror, bleached spikes sticking out all over my head. When would I learn not to hook up with people I worked with?
I climbed back into bed and sat up with my back against the headboard. I couldn’t deal with Josh being all over me again.
“Okay, Jemma. Dish. Your childhood.”
God, this guy didn’t give up. Good thing I had my storyline all worked out. I was going to tell the truth as much as possible. “Well, you know, my childhood was quite different from yours—”
“Like, how?” He lay there like a little puppy, looking up at me, all snuggly and gooey eyes, tousled black curls.
“For one thing, I went to a lot of different schools.” Gross understatement. Four in seventh grade alone, the year they carted Mom away. Okay Jemma, wait for it. Here it comes.
Josh furrowed his brow. “Why?”
“We moved around a lot.” Another understatement. Fourteen foster homes. People—foster parents, social workers, family court judges—kept labeling me “a handful.” Of course I was a handful! I hated myself. And my mother. And the whole friggin’ world.
Jemma, figure out how to shut this down.
I took a deep breath. “But the important thing is, I was great at math. Math was my . . . refuge. So I got a lot of positive attention from teachers, no matter where I lived.” I pondered what to say next. If I didn’t say something quick, Josh would hammer me with more questions.
“That’s how I got to go to college even though my family was broke.” Understatement number three.
“Good for you.” Josh beamed a smile so bright we didn’t need any lights on.
“Yeah, MIT gave me a full ride, which was, like, beyond my wildest dreams. Computer science. That’s how I got into coding.” Girls Who
Code. That was me.
“So that’s how you got hired at Innovative Software.”
“And met you.” I got up and grabbed a robe. “It’s getting late and I gotta be up early tomorrow. In light of the storm, how ‘bout I call you an Uber?”
“Sure.” He flicked the light on.
I was so proud of myself. Not a single lie.
Bonnie E. Carlson is a retired professor of social work. She lives in Scottsdale, AZ with her husband, dog, and too many cats. A fan of the Oxford comma, she has published several short stories in magazines such as Foliate Oak, Fewer Than 500, Across the Margin, Broadkill Review, The Normal School, and Down in the Dirt. Her novel Radical Acceptance is forthcoming.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.