The Sweetheart Sham

By: Danielle Ellison

“Yeah, summer is pretty great, Abby.” Then he turns to me. “Come with me to find the guys?”

“Sure,” I say. I’m glad my best friend is there to save the day.

Did you check the RSVP email today?


Do it now, Georgia Ann. Every day. That’s the rule.

I sigh as I type, I will. Kinda at a party here.

Will and I go toward the river, which for some reason is always where our friends tend to find themselves. I know the reason, actually. They’re always looking for trouble.

“Montgomery!” Chris Howell’s deep voice is hard to miss. Even when he’s yelling he still sounds like an old man. “Get your ass over here!”

I’d much rather hang out with the guys than the Belles. With them, I know what I’m going to get. Growing up, aside from when I was forced to be with the girls, I was always with Will and Beau. Someone’d see one of us then they’d get the other two. That was how it was until Beau left. Boys are less complicated. At least when you’re only friends with them.

As we walk I load up the email on my phone. The guys are sitting by the water, not too far from another keg. The party hasn’t been going on that long yet because by the end of the night this whole area will be make-out central. It’s what always happens. They start on opposite corners, make the rounds, and then they’re coupled up everywhere. When the Lane and Haymont kids come, the options vary. Beau and I kissed at this party, and that was the beginning of it all for us. For that one summer anyway.

They’re laughing when we reach them.

“What are we doing?” Will asks.

“Watching Reyes make an ass of himself. He said he could jump across that part of the lake,” Spencer Newman says.

Will and I look that way, and sure enough Reyes is standing on the edge of the land right over the smallest patch of water.

“It’s at least five feet across. He can’t do that with his short, stubby legs.”

I have no doubt they coerced him into this. Reyes isn’t really the type to go jumping over water, unless that water’s got a magic portal in it. I think sometimes that he’d be on the next trip out of the universe if he could.

The guys all holler. “Hear that, Reyes? Will said you had stubby legs,” Jake Lexington yells. Then he looks at me, and he smiles. “What do you think, Monroe? Can he do it?”

I glance back down the lake. No, there’s no way he can jump across that. He does have stubby legs, and not enough speed. Someone taller could, more limber, but not Reyes.

“I reckon,” I say. Because the last thing I want to do is agree with Jake.

Jake smirks. “Liar.”

“I’m a Belle; I don’t lie.”

“What do you want to wager on that?”

Will raises an eyebrow. Jake Lexington has been pushing my buttons since we were in kindergarten. He knows all the things to say, and Will tells me all the time it’s because Jake wants to go out with me. Not that Jake Lexington “goes out” with anyone. He’s more of a one-time-use-only kind of guy. Ironically, exactly like a condom.

And even though I know he’s egging me on, I’ve never been one to roll over and play dead. So I say, “Depends.”

“On what?”

Now all the guys are staring between us. Jake pulls his long, brown hair back. He’s probably already too wasted to remember this tomorrow.

“Do you have anything I want?”

Jake smiles and points to himself. “You mean, more than this?”

I make a gagging sound.

“All right! I’m doing it!” Reyes yells from across the way and everyone turns to focus on him.

Spencer Newman stands on a chopped tree trunk and puts on an announcer voice. “Fellow men, and Georgie, today we witness a miraculous sight. ‘Stubby Legs’ Reyes will defy all odds as he attempts to jump across the lake! Pay attention, gather ’round, you don’t want to miss this.” He looks toward us in his regular voice. “Someone get a video.”

Everyone has their phones pointed in Reyes’s direction. We watch him squat, then stand, and change his mind. Instead he backs up, kisses his fingers, and points them into the air, yells “Allonsy!” then runs. It’s miraculous for all of three seconds before he belly flops into the lake. The guys all laugh as Reyes sputters water out of his mouth.

Yeah, this party is obviously the best.

I glance down at my phone and scroll through the email to appease Momma. Right as I’m about to close it, there it is: the RSVP for two from Kerri Ann Montgomery. My heart races.

Beau Montgomery is finally coming back to Culler.

Three hours later, Lyla is asleep with her head on my lap. She started puking over the side of the porch after one and a half wine coolers. The peach ones to be exact, which probably do not taste good coming up since they are nasty going down. We’re officially two of the only people not hooking up right now.

It’s not that I couldn’t hook up with someone—I could. Jake Lexington would take me in a second, and maybe that’s the problem. I don’t want to be someone’s opportunity; I want to be everything, like Momma is to Daddy. She may annoy him to no end sometimes, but I know when he looks at her that he loves her. I want to be looked at the same way. All roads do not lead to that look, especially when someone like Jake Lexington is the gateway. No, that look comes from someone like Beau. Someone who knows you and accepts your flaws and makes you a little bit crazy, too, but has a good heart.