We Don't Talk Anymore (The Don't Duet #1) - Julie Johnson
I stare up at the cabin ceiling, wishing I could evaporate. Through the floorboards, I can hear the telltale rhythm of Archer and Sienna screwing — those periodic moans, the tap-tap-tap of the headboard, the creaky springs in the mattress.
What a weird term for it. Screwing. Like their bodies are instruments plucked from some libidinous toolbox, jammed together out of necessity rather than affection. Makes the whole process sound mechanical. A chore. Like fixing an IKEA cabinet, not making love.
Yuck. That’s somehow even worse than screwing, in my humble opinion. Not that my humble opinion counts for all that much when it comes to sex, seeing as I’m a virgin with a capital V.
I’m also “Valentine” with a capital V. (That’s my last name, not some fervid declaration of my favorite Hallmark holiday.) As nicknames go, it’s not terrible — albeit not necessarily one I would’ve chosen for myself. But at a house party six months ago, one of the baseball jocks said, “Yo, Valentine! Pass me that beer, will you?” and I guess it stuck, seeing as it’s all anyone at school calls me these days. Quite possibly because they couldn’t be bothered to learn my actual name after six years of classes together.
Well… everyone except Archer. But that’s only because we’ve been best friends since we were old enough to call each other anything requiring more than those goo-goo-ga-ga syllables babies mouth at each other in daycare through drooling, toothless smiles. He calls me Josephine — a.k.a. Jo, a.k.a. JoJo, a.k.a Joe Shmoe — which is what my mother scrawled on my birth certificate after popping me out the same summer The Wallflowers released my namesake track, halfway through a mid-nineties heatwave. (My father initially wanted to name me Maude, after his dearly departed great-aunt. I send my deepest regards to gods of angsty alternative-rock for persuading him otherwise.)
So, that’s me. Josephine Valentine. A girl named for a song no one my age has ever even heard. Which, honestly, is a pretty fitting interpretation of my entire high school experience thus far.
Since I was old enough to notice such things, I’ve always found myself on the fringes. Too artsy to blend naturally with the in-crowd, too obstinate to whittle myself into something they’d find more palatable at their cliquey lunch tables. Like a cheerleader. Or the student council president. Or a cokehead.
Anything, really, besides what I am — a deeply-unapologetic introvert, who’d rather spend her day out sailing or squirreled away with a good fantasy novel than on display at Singing Beach, gossiping with girls who, it must be said, are more than a little intimidating. Only partly because of the way they fill out their bikini tops, while my own frame is flatter than a freaking hardcover. (I think the phrase “late bloomer” is embedded somewhere in my DNA.)
Much like the seagulls who roam boldly between sandy towels on the hunt for unattended snacks, the popular girls seem to travel in packs and strike the moment your back is turned. Predators with preening feathers, they smile prettily as they plot your demise.
Count me out.
Honestly, I wouldn’t even be here at this stupid party if not for Archer. He dragged me along, insisting it would be more fun than sitting at home all alone on the final night of spring break, binge-watching yet another season of The Great British Bake Off, eating my body weight in mass-produced (likely carcinogenic) sour gummy worms while critiquing the contestants’ shoddy use of fondant.
“It’s senior year, Jo,” he’d reminded me, grinning in that way that makes my knees go softer than buttercream frosting. “Last chance to tear it up before graduation.”
“Come on! Don’t make me face the zombie hoard alone.” He’d tugged a lock of my hair, then wrapped it absently around one finger, his eyes fixated on the strands as they caught the fading afternoon light. We were sitting in our spot, up in the rafters of the boathouse — our favorite hideout from the rest of the world — staring out at the ocean, our legs dangling in the wind. Below, waves gently lapped at the sides of the navy blue Hinckley picnic boat my father spent a fortune on (but is never around to use) and, beyond, the sun made its slow descent toward the horizon.
We’ve spent a million such nights up there — shoulders pressed together, sharing secrets in the dark. But this time, something felt different. Archer cleared his throat, uncharacteristically nervous.
“If you don’t come to