Home > Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(2)

Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(2)
Jennifer Jaynes

They found a table near the bathrooms. After the waitress left with their orders; Tiffany produced a pack of cigarettes, plucked one out and held the box out to her. “Want one?”

Haley shook her head.

“You okay?” Tiffany asked. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine.” These days going out just to have fun seemed wrong. Her father was killed in a gruesome accident seven months earlier and she’d barely been out of the house since, but she didn’t want to ruin Tiffany’s evening. She straightened in her seat and tried her best to look more okay than she felt. But even she knew the illusion was thin.

Tiffany blew a stream of smoke over her shoulder, then her green eyes narrowed. “You know, you have to start getting out. It’s been like seven months since—”

“I know,” Haley interrupted. Cigarette smoke, sweat, a mixture of cheap colognes, and the smell of fried food were making her queasy. She wanted to go home.

After the waitress returned and set their cheese sticks and sodas on the table, Tiffany leaned forward, her eyes serious. “Look, I’ve got something to tell you.”

“What?” she asked, glad to change the subject.

Tiffany watched a bearded man stroll to the jukebox and drop quarters in the slot. After a long moment she turned her attention back to Haley.

“Okay, now don’t freak. It’s about a guy. And it’s not Charles.” She lowered her cigarette. “I know it’s not right, especially after Tom and all.” She paused and her eyes grew wider, more emphatic, the way they always got when she was trying to sell Haley something. Most times it ended up being either a really bad idea or an outright lie.

“You know how much I love Charles. I mean, I love things about Charles. Certain wonderful things. . . but then there are things I don’t love. Like, how he’s so disgustingly infatuated with me.”

“I thought that was one of the things you love?”

Tiffany sighed, and pushed her long, strawberry-blonde hair from her face.

“I did. It felt cool at first, but I’m so over that now. He always wants to be with me. I don’t do well on a leash.”

“He’s your boyfriend. He should want to be with you. Besides, it’s hardly like he has you on a leash.”

Tiffany tilted her head and twisted a gold necklace around her thumb, a nervous habit of hers since Haley’s mother had given them matching ones for their high school graduation. Twenty-four karat necklaces with monogrammed heart-shaped pendants.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m not cut out for a boyfriend,” Tiffany decided. “I mean, I like too many boys.” She untwisted the necklace from her thumb and let it fall back against her long neck. She smirked. “Maybe my mama’s right. I’m hopelessly boy crazy, and Jesus is gonna make me pay for my lust in the afterlife.”

Haley had no reason not to like Charles Johnson. He was bright, warm, polite. . . decent. Although she’d been as surprised as everyone else in town that Tiffany had decided to date a black boy, the difference was she had no problem with it. She thought he was good for Tiffany. But Tiffany wasn’t so good for him. Especially after her affair with Tom Anderson, a professor at the community college—an ordeal for which Charles had just forgiven her. And now they were having this conversation.

“I think Charles wants to marry me. Say I marry him. Then what am I supposed to do? Stay here? Grow old and decrepit in Grand Trespass with a black man? It’s bad enough to think I might be stuck here at all. But being with Charles in the first place was more about screwing with my mama’s head than truly loving him.”

Haley groaned. She hated how her friend treated boys. Everything always had to be about her when it came to them, with little to no consideration of him.

“Don’t get me wrong, Charles is a doll. An absolute doll. Well, usually. But since the thing with Tom, he’s become almost, I don’t know, obsessed.” She sighed. “Well anyway, there’s this guy. I’m not going to tell you his name because. . . well, you’re just going to have to, um, trust me on why.”

Trust, Haley thought. She loved Tiffany, but trusting her, well, that was a lot to ask. The guy probably had a girlfriend or wife and Tiffany knew Haley wouldn’t approve. Or it could be something even worse.

Just then, Haley saw Charles work his way through the crowd. Several of the locals gawked as he walked past. One shook his head. Another sneered. The man walked past all of them, his posture ramrod straight, his face expressionless. His eyes quickly settled on the two girls and he walked toward them.

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