Mother’s Love

Part 2

The backpack to which Blaise had referred carried almost no clothing (there were several changes at her dad’s house and he would gladly buy her more if she asked), no toiletries (likewise available), and no school work (it was mid-May and her teachers had all surrendered to the irresistible pull of summer. Homework was a thing of the past.) What the backpack did carry was makeup, a leather jacket (which looked cool in any temperature), and a half-dozen graphic novels. These latter were contraband in Vivienne’s home. She said they were no better than video games and seemed to take inordinate umbrage at the genre most appealing to Millie — vampire stories.

Millie excused herself from the dinner table early, not that there was much of a table from which to be excused. Meals in Blaise’s house were taken in a crowd around an enormous, round coffee table that filled the open space in the curve of a baby blue sectional sofa, usually accompanied by the shouted vapidity of TV announcers for UFC, X-Games, or Red Bull Rampage.

This would be the pattern for the next week: school, homework, dinner with Blaise’s buddies and Red Bull Rampage, then an early escape to her room and her books.

Upstairs, in the room she sometimes shared with a half-sister when she was home from college, Millie settled into a creaking daybed and let her mind wander intermittently to the stories in her graphic novels and the attention she was getting from Quinten.

Quinten LeForge was a senior who rode a motorcycle, played on the baseball team, and worked summers as a lifeguard at the water park. He had dark eyes, wavy black hair, and teeth so bright and orderly they seemed inhuman. But none of that interested Millie, at least that’s what she told herself. Instead, she was taken with his depth, his probing questions about her feelings, his uninterested-but-angsty self-awareness, his insight into the human condition.

Quinten ran with a crowd of pseudo-jocks who wore flat-billed caps and western-fringed leather jackets and smoked Marlboros and listened to emo-tinged indie-rock. She had infiltrated their scene that winter when she helped them crash a Rise Against concert (one of Blaise’s friends worked at the club) and had been scheming her way closer to the center of that circle ever since. Lunchroom seating, study groups, and Snapchats all part of her strategy for getting closer to Quinten, and all part of a pattern that worried her mother.

Millie imagined Quinten as the protagonist in her graphic novel, overcoming his troubled past to play the hero, revealing his strength at just the right moment, a man in a boy’s body, a wry paragon, the hero of a new age. She let herself slip from the book and into his imaginary arms, away from parents, away from the waking world.

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