CRUSHED is an upper YA/New Adult book with sexual situations and mature language. Please don’t read if these things offend you.
A fist pounds on my door. Over and over again. Beneath me, Hannah Something’s eyes grow wide, and she starts to squirm away. I snap the elastic of her panties back in place and wipe my fingers on the sheets before signaling her to stay quiet. There isn’t a lock on my door. The Harker School doesn’t believe in privacy.
“Fletch, you fucker, open up.” Brady’s fist strikes the door and matches the rhythm of his words. “I’m giving you ‘till the count of five, and then I’m coming in, and I don’t care who I find you in.”
I roll off Hannah, scoop up my underwear, and toss her sweater at her. “You can wait here, or get dressed and at least try to look presentable.”
She pulls her sweater over her head and her soft tits disappear under the scratchy fabric. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Like that’s going to happen.
“Five,” Brady shouts from the hallway. “Seriously, if I find you flagrantly abusing yourself, I’m going to kick your ass.”
I yank the door open, and he stumbles forward.
“Yeah, I’m happy to see you too,” I say, shoving him off me.
Brady – my best friend – scans my room, his eyes darting over my half-unpacked duffle bag and cardboard boxes. They rest on Hannah, who’s pulling her jeans over her tight ass. He bobs his head and grins.
“Dude, you’ve been back all of what – two hours, maybe?” He has this way of dragging out his words, of making one syllable two. For being an East Coast guy, he’s done a great job adopting California surfer speak. And since he doesn’t surf – let alone venture into the dark, violent water that makes up the Northern California coast – it’s a habit I find mildly annoying.
I run my hand through my hair and survey the room. There’s a bed shoved against the wall with the door, and another near the windows. A sturdy desk and tall dresser line the third wall. All standard Harker-issue furniture. My shit’s all over the institutional green linoleum floor. I tore through the cardboard boxes searching for sheets. Not that the bed was completely necessary, but most girls prefer a bed. And I give girls what they like.
“Hannah was just, you know, helping me carry my stuff up. Not all of us have parents who deliver them to school like frickin’ kindergarteners.”
Brady snorts. “Some moving service.”
Hannah finishes buttoning her jeans and tries walking past him, but Brady sticks out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. Brady Pearson. And you are Hannah…”
He gives her his best sheepish smile – the one girls love. “You’re on the tennis team, right? A junior?”
“Captain,” she retorts. “I’m the captain.” She flips her dark hair over her shoulder, walks past Brady, and stops before me. Her warm hand pats my bare chest. “See you later?”
“Sure. Later,” I say dismissively, but she still smiles that sweet little smile of hers and steps into the hallway.
I kick the door shut. “Way to kill my game, asshole.”
Brady shrugs and flops down on the bare vinyl mattress near the door. It cracks under his weight. “Put some clothes on, will ya? You, wearing only a candy wrapper, is a sight I try to avoid as much as possible.”
I retrieve my jeans and t-shirt from the floor and put them on. “Better?”
“Much.” Brady stares up at the ceiling and folds his hands behind his head. “How was your summer?”
I step through the mess, bend, and heft a box onto the semi-made bed.
“The same as always: San Diego to visit my cousin; bonding with the parents; complete and total boredom. You?”
“No Calista?” He says this like he already knows.
t’s just a question. Relax, Fletch. Relax. Brady doesn’t know.
“Of course I hung out with Cal.”
“And?” He’s curious now.
My stomach drops. “She’s good.”
“Good as in good? Or good as in ‘holy fuck it was the best sex of my life, and I can’t wait to tap that shit again’ good?”
I throw a balled up pair of socks at him. You can do it. Say the words. “Good as in, if you ever come near her, I’ll personally slice your balls off.”
Brady grins at me and jumps off the bed. “Nice.” He crosses his arms, legs spread wide, like a club bouncer.
“Have you forgotten all your manners? This is the part in the program where you say, ‘How many girls did you fuck this summer?’ and I feign embarrassment and modesty.”
Brady is never modest or embarrassed.
“How many girls did you fuck this summer?” I repeat, even though he’s already launched into his monologue.
He holds up his fist and pries one finger up at a time, counting each one. “Five. That’s the magic number today.”
“Five?” I say, a little in awe.
“Not in one day, dumbass. I’m not depraved.” He slides my closet door open, searching for the food I normally keep there, but since it’s move-in day, the cabinet is bare.
“Okay, so five girls all summer?”
He grins. “Yup and you? I mean, is – what’s her name?”
I stare at him, unsure who he means. He can’t mean Calista. He knows her.
“The girl who was just here. What’s her name again?”
“Are you trying to make up for a drought with Haa-nah?” He says her name kinda sing-songy, like a little kid. “Did Cal keep you tied up all summer?”
Yeah. Pretty much. “Jesus, Brady. Try to have a little respect.”
“After you told me about her lacy white knickers, how can I?” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, but that’s one image I don’t want to get out of my head.”
I don’t want to talk about Calista. It’s bad enough I have to see her at some point.
Unpacking shouldn’t take me long – my entire life currently consists of three cardboard boxes, a mini-fridge, a worn carpet I’ve had since freshman year that smells like stale beer and puke, a skateboard, and a duffle bag full of clothes and school supplies.
“How’d you score this?” Brady waves his hand around my room. “I have to share with Reid and don’t even get a balcony or view to make up for it.”
“Good luck, I guess.” When I toured Harker on a rare sunny day, Dad had made a big point of showing me his old room, which is just a few doors down from where I now stand. He had bribed its resident with a twenty before barging through the room and out to the balcony. “This,” Dad had said, gesturing to the girls below us, “is why you want one of these rooms.”
And every day, for the past three years, I walked past these rooms, waiting for the day when one would belong to me.
On cue, Brady yanks the French doors open and takes a position at the railing. The ever-present fog rushes in, threatening to soak my meager possessions.
I follow him and close the door behind us. The balcony overlooks The Beach, which is just a large grassy oval surrounded on three sides by my u-shaped dorm. It’s the main upper campus hangout, and when there isn’t any fog – which is next to never – the view includes redwood trees and the wild ocean. But normally, the only things worth seeing are the girls who crowd The Beach between classes and during free hours.
From the way Brady’s grinning and nodding, I can tell he’s assessing the hotness of the freshman girls.
“Any good ones?” I ask even though I know his answer. Every girl has some redeeming quality. The dumb ones are typically pretty and the “beer-goggle-only” girls usually have great bodies or personalities or something.
“Definitely more good than bad,” he responds. “Easy targets. Senior year is going to be epic.”
He’s right, of course. This, right here – the awesome room, the girls, senior year – is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of ever since stepping onto the Harker campus three years ago.
“Isn’t it weird?”
It takes me a minute to figure out what the hell he’s talking about. Brady’s brain moves two steps faster than his words, and, in his mind, he’s already made the connection between the girls on The Beach and his question. Sometimes I think he’s a little ADHD.
I bristle before remembering Brady doesn’t know what happened between Cal and me. “It’s fine. Why?”
Brady shrugs. “I don’t know. You guys hook-up during breaks and stuff, and then, you know. I mean, isn’t it kinda like making out with your sister or something?”
“Dude. That’s gross.”
“You know what I mean. She’s the closest thing you’ve had to a girlfriend. Or a sister.”
“But she’s not. And she knows that. And so do I,” I snap, the edge in my voice surprising me.
Brady grimaces. “This isn’t going to end well.”
“It’s fine. It’s always fine.” I try to sound convincing – like Fletch Colson, the guy who supposedly doesn’t give a fuck what girls think. I’m trying. Really. I am.
The fog has lifted a little, and The Beach teems with students – some with their parents, but most of them clustered in tight groups. A bunch of returning girls have brought out blankets and are sitting around watching idiotic junior guys show off their Frisbee skills – because every girl loves a Frisbee player, right?. They’re not obvious at all with the way they keep “accidently” running into girls.
A cute brunette in a yellow t-shirt leans back on her elbows and flashes perfect white teeth at us. Brady gives the standard half-wave – the kind you give when you’re interested but don’t want to look that way.
“Dibs,” he calls.
I nod in acknowledgement.
A worried look crosses Brady’s face. “Problem number one with being a senior: the new girls will be jailbait in a few months.”
The irony isn’t lost on me. When we were freshmen, all we wanted to do was score a hot upper school girl. Mission accomplished when Brady hooked up with a cute senior, and I spent a few fun hours with Grace Voigt, the hottest junior girl ever. But now, we’re seniors, plotting our way through the freshman class.
“You need to get some chairs. And maybe a hammock. Yeah.” He rocks back from the edge of the balcony. “A hammock would be awesome.”
I can’t think of anything less awesome in fog or rain.
“For Christ’s sake, Brady. When did you become an interior decorator?” I shove him, and he catches the railing. “Don’t you have your own room to fix up?”
“I’m done: bed, desk, bar, and video games. What more can a man want?”
When we were freshman, we decided all a guy needed to be happy in life was food, sports, and sex. Since then, our list has expanded as needed.
“Apparently a hammock,” I mutter and stare off toward the ocean or, more correctly where the ocean should be since it’s always obscured by fog.
“Know what else would be great?” he asks.
I shoot Brady an exasperated glance. “Let me guess, a plasma TV?”
“No. But I like how you think.” He taps his finger to his temple. “Water guns.”
“Do I even want to know?”
Mostly, we ignore Harker’s legendary list of rules and regulations. Because really, as long as we’re careful, there are ways to get around the rules. But water guns sound like a recipe for disaster.
“Wanna go find Alex and skate?” Brady asks as we retreat to the relative warmth of my room.
“I need to finish unpacking.” With one hand, I search the inside of a soggy box and retrieve the stack of college applications I received over the summer. I fan them so Brady can get an eyeful. Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Amherst, Stanford – my first pick – and Princeton, my Dad’s alma mater and his first choice for me.
Brady eyes the applications and snorts. “Overachiever.”
“You know it.” I shove the papers into the top drawer of my desk. Brady shouldn’t talk. He’s my main competition for valedictorian – a friendly rivalry we carry over to most things we do.
He hovers, not helping, just taking up space. I can tell I’m not going to get anything done with him here.
“It could be fun,” I say as I pick my crumpled fleece up off the floor and tug it over my head without bothering to unzip it. The tiny school-issued mirror confirms I’m a disheveled mess, but I don’t care.
Brady looks at me quizzically. “What could be fun?”
I sigh. “Water guns, dumbass.”
Brady grins and holds out his fist. I bump it. “Seniors,” he says.
“Seniors,” I repeat, and we both laugh.
Like what you read? Add CRUSHED to your Goodreads account.