Collateral

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Book: Collateral by Ellen Hopkins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ellen Hopkins
really should
    do something with his writing.
    The tension between us dissolves.
    â€œThanks. I’ll be sure to let him know.
    He’ll probably freak that I showed
    it to you, but I really wanted to get
    your opinion.” I reach for the paper
    and our fingers brush, initiating
    a totally unexpected electric jolt.
    Holy crap! What was that? My hand
    jerks back, zapped, and my cheeks react
    with a furious blush—half shame,
    half ridiculous lust for a man who is
    my professor. A man who is several
    years older than I. A man who most
    definitely is not Cole. “S-s-sorry,”
    I stutter. Stupid! What am I, twelve?

THE REAL QUESTION
    Is, why am I apologizing? And,
    to whom? Mr. Clinger smiles
    at my obvious consternation.
    Oddly, I smile back, despite
    my discomfort at what just
    transpired between us. Or,
    maybe nothing at all did. Maybe
    I imagined the whole thing.
    But I don’t think so. There
    is some weird chemistry here.
    Travel safely, Ashley. Let’s find
    a good time next week for you
    to make up that test. By the way,
    we’re moving to spoken word
    poetry next week. Here . . .
    He scribbles some names on
    a personalized Post-it. If you have
    a few minutes before I see you
    again, check them out on YouTube.
    He offers the paper, and I take it
    gingerly, hope he doesn’t notice
    the way my hand is shaking.
    I glance at what he’s written.
    â€œOh, I know Rachel McKibbens
    and Taylor Mali. Alix Olson, too.”
    His grin widens. Of course
    you do. Have a great trip.

I MANAGE
    To make it through the rest of the day
    without getting turned on by another
    professor. Or fellow student, campus
    policeman, or janitor. To be fair to myself,
    it has been a few months since I’ve seen
    Cole, but I’ve successfully sequestered
    the thought of sex with him, or anyone.
    Until today. But to say what happened
    earlier meant nothing at all would be
    a lie. In that moment, I wanted to fuck
    Mr. Clinger. Jonah. That’s the name
    on the Post-it, above the slam poets.
    Some tiny, niggling splinter of me
    was desperate to fuck Jonah Clinger
    and all the rest of me believes that
    shard is a no-good traitor. And tonight
    that’s what I’m obsessing about.
    Not research. Not writing the paper due
    Wednesday. Not packing bikinis
    and sexy nighties to wear for Cole. Nope.
    Instead, I’m trying to drown every
    recurring image of Jonah in a huge glass
    of Chardonnay. Doesn’t seem to
    be working. Maybe if it was tequila
    I’d have half a chance. Instead, I keep
    flashing back to ice blue (not golden) eyes.
    I need someone to talk to. But who?
    Darian, my forever friend, who’s likely
    dumping her Marine husband for
    a guy who’s definitely dumping his Air
    Force–focused wife? Probably not
    my best choice. My other local friends
    are UCSD students with no military
    ties. I already talked to Sophie today,
    and got her to agree to watch
    my apartment. After all the hype
    I just fed her about needing to see
    the love of my life before he leaves
    for Afghanistan, how could I possibly
    discuss the seedier side of my psyche?
    Brittany, who’s all sass and easy sex,
    no desire for commitment, ever (at least
    until she finds someone actually worth
    committing to?). Another wrong call.

I PACE THE APARTMENT
    Putting out of place things back
    into place. Tossing stuff that needs
    tossed. Seeking order in disorder.
    I dust. Vacuum. Clean counters,
    sinks, and the toilet. At least when
    I get back from Hawaii, everything
    will be in its place and I can dive
    straight back into my class work
    without having to do this stuff first.
    Finally, I refill my glass. Turn on
    my computer. Cruise over to YouTube
    and some of the best spoken word
    poets in the world. I’m not familiar
    with a couple on this list, but before
    I’m through watching, I will be.
    There is order in this, too. I can read
    my poetry out loud, but this is pure
    performance. Rhythmic. Bold.

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