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Damaged Goods: Chapter 12


Lev

Present

Miserable Fact #1,188: The Egyptian pyramids were created to prevent grave robbers from stealing jewels and treasures that were buried with the royals.

After Mel and Jaime come back from the theater, I drive straight to Thalia’s place to break things off with her. There wasn’t much going on to begin with, but I’m no cheater, and I did make a promise to T that we’d be exclusive.

And even though I’d have loved spilling the beans to Bailey’s parents, I’m still holding on to the stupid hope she and I can figure this out together before I have to become a snitch.

Every time I think about my finger up Bailey’s ass—which is every second since I got out of there—my body full-blown shudders and precum trickles out of my stone-hard dick.

I think I had seven mini-orgasms in the time between then and now. I give my cock a hard tug, trying to snap it out of it. Down, boy.

When Bailey said she and I have a shot together, I wanted to believe her. But she was so out of it, I knew it was the drugs talking.

Plus, getting into a relationship with a spiraling addict is a huge, fat no. She needs to prioritize her sobriety, and as much as I want to be with her, I want her to get better more.

Man, love sucks. I hate that people hype it up like it’s a chicken-and-waffles combo. Speaking of shit that sucks—why are smart people so prone to forming an addiction?

Like, I know. Life’s trash. Most humans are dichotomous, single-digit-IQ morons. I get that. But for real. Bailey’s addiction leading me into hoping she might be into anal play is crueler than animal abuse.

I park in front of Thalia’s house and stomp my way to her front step.

She lives in a ranch-style fixer-upper between Encinitas and Poway. It’s by no means glitzy like Todos Santos or even Carlsbad. A small inland town, no glamour or frills.

I know her folks won’t be home because her mom is a nurse who works night shifts and her dad’s a truck driver who pulls weekends for extra cash. Thalia’s older sister, Tiff, had bone cancer when she was younger, so her parents got into crazy medical debt paying for an experimental and successful treatment. They’ve been paying it off for over a decade. Tiff’s a sophomore in college now, so it was obviously worth it, but I get why Thalia is so messed up about money. She grew up with people who had a ton while she had none.

I knock on the door. When she opens it, my jaw drops because holy crap.

She looks exactly like Bailey.

She has the same makeup as Dove today (peachy eyeshadow, mascara, pink lip gloss). And the same clothes (Burberry skirt, white cardigan, and a big hair bow). She’s even wearing the same perfume.

“Hey, sexy!” She balls the collar of my muscle shirt with her fist and tugs me inside. “Thought you’d never come.”

“What made you think I’d show up?”

“Oh, just a feeling you’d need some TLC tonight.” She winks.

Because you were at Bailey’s, Grim’s voice mocks in my head. And she figured you’d be too horny not to fuck now.

Oh well. The least Thalia deserves is a breakup conversation.

We walk over to her backyard, which is basically a patch of turf and plastic furniture, and she lights up a joint and cracks open two tall boys. She looks a little high herself.

“We need to talk.”

She tilts her head, licking a path up the side of my throat. “Cool. Can we have sex first?”

Definitely not.

I place my untouched beer between us, drawing an invisible line. “I think our time has run out.”

“What? Why?” Her eyes are two pools of hurt. Even though we’d agreed it would be casual, I feel like a jackass. They call it catching feels because emotions are like the flu. Nobody ever asks for them, and they show up at the most inconvenient time.

Instead of stating the obvious, I say, “Things are a little complicated for me right now.”

“Is this because of Bailey?” Her lower lip trembles.

Yes. But I pride myself on not being an asshole, so I shake my head. “Not just her. I have to figure out where I’m headed after I graduate, get a plan in place.” This is not a lie. Thalia clutches my muscle shirt, tugging me to her desperately.

“She doesn’t want you. And she’s in a very bad place now. It’s not like you’d be able to hook up when she’s in this state.”

Gently, I pry her hands off my shirt. “Thalia.”

“It’s true.” She dumps her joint on the ground, tramping on it, glancing at me through red-rimmed eyes. “Aren’t you tired of being strung along? Of wasting your time chasing a girl who doesn’t get you? Me, I get you. I accept you as you are. I’ll never give you trouble.”

Whatever happened to exclusive fuck buddies? This veered off route and is currently not even in the same state as casual.

“She scored drugs today. I have to focus on getting her help.” I grab the beer between us and down it in frustration.

“H—how do you know? Do you know who sold them to her?” Thalia splutters, looking panicked. “Ohmygosh, that’s cray!”

I shrug helplessly, softening that Thalia cares for Bails too.

I’ve no idea how Bailey scored drugs in Todos Santos. Must be someone who doesn’t know me, as no one is stupid enough to cross me that badly.

“But this isn’t about her spiraling. I don’t understand,” Thalia screeches, looking slighted. “I’m tailor-made for you. She’s nothing! Just a nepo baby who can’t even keep her shit together.”

I stand up, ready to leave. She clutches my arm, then falls to her knees, wrapping her hands around my ankle.

Honest enough to recognize this is all my fault, I spare her the colorful words for talking shit about Bailey.

“Look, it’s not you. You’re amazing. Fuck-hot, easy to get along with, sweet. You’ll find someone else. You deserve someone else.” I shake her off my ankle like she’s a stray cat. “It’s impossible not to fall for you,” I lie.

“But you still managed not to.” She buries her face in my sweatpants, still clutching tight. “Because you’re already in love, aren’t you?”

I incline my head, wordlessly admitting as much.

“Ugh. I hate that I fell for you.” She sniffles, rubbing at her arms. “No point in asking you to try to do the same, huh?” She rolls back to sit on her backyard’s deck, regaining her composure.

“We don’t choose who we fall in love with. That’s what makes love so fucking great, T. It’s like a present. The surprise is the best part.”

She bites her lip, jerking her foot impatiently, thinking all of this over.

“What’re you thinking?” I ask.

“Now I’m just worried about my reputation. It’s gonna look sus, Lev.” She rubs at her chin, frowning. “People know Bailey’s in town. It’ll be extra humiliating for me when word comes out. Everyone s-speculated you would ditch me as soon as she set foot back in Todos Santos.” She wipes at her red nose. “Never mind. This is a me problem, not a you problem.”

She isn’t wrong. I’m trash for Bailey Followhill, and that is the worst kept secret in SoCal.

“I’ll tell them you dumped me,” I volunteer. Big egos are for people with small dicks.

She snorts, shaking her head. “As if anyone’s gonna believe that.”

An idea pops into my head. Thing is, it’s actually not a bad idea for Bailey to think I’m still attached to Thalia.

It would make her focus on her sobriety and less about manipulating my pussy-whipped ass to be her partner in crime.

I screw up my nose. “What if we don’t tell anyone we’ve broken up?”

“What do you mean?” She perks up, looking intrigued.

Shrugging, I explain, “What if we forget telling people we’ve broken up for a month or two so they assume we’re still together? You can set the ground. Tell people I’m a self-involved jerk or whatever—not a lie—for when you dump me.” And that way Bailey won’t get any ideas and I won’t be tempted to take her up on her salacious offers.

“Oh, Levy.” Thalia rises up and flings her arms over my shoulders. She buries her face in my shoulder. “Thank you, this means the world to me. You’re so thoughtful.”

I pat her back awkwardly, wondering if I just made a deal with the devil. She pulls away.

“Just tell me one thing.” Her fingers curl around the lapels of my varsity jacket that still smells like Bails. “If Bailey never existed, do you think we’d have had a chance?”

And because my life is a recollection of white lies strung together by good intentions, I tell her what she wants to hear, not anything remotely true.

“Yes.”


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