"Like, she has no personality blah?"
"Maybe. Or she's just not very assertive," I say. "It's hard to tell. My father is pretty..."
"Fucked up?" she asks.
I laugh. "That's not what I was going to say."
"It's what you were thinking, though." She leans back, arching her back up, displaying her breasts, even though it's just the two of us.
"It's totally not what I was thinking."
"Continue, please," she orders. "You father is an overbearing dickhead who treats her the way he treats you, and -- "
It annoys me that Jo lumps Ella and I together, like we're both some spineless creatures just being trampled underneath my father's will. "I haven't really seen them together much, you know. I mean, there was this photo of them on his desk - from Christmas - and they looked...happy."
Jo grunts her response. "Happy," she says. "That's all you've got for me. You have Ella fucking Sterling in your house and all I get is blah and happy. You know I want the dirt."
I exhale. Of course. Dirt. "She's super...bright."
"Bright," Jo repeats flatly.
"And un-caffeinated," I say. "Like, bright without ever drinking coffee in the morning."
"That's unnatural," Jo says. "I hate her already."
Now I can't help but smile. "Oh, and she drinks these smoothies, like this algae shit that smells so bad. Caulter called them her fish tank shakes."
Jo's ears perk up at the sound of his name, and I immediately regret mentioning him. I'm telling no one what happened with Caulter. He will remain my dirty little secret.
I will take him with me to the grave. Maybe even literally, if he keeps being such a jerk.
I'm aware of Jo's eyes on me, her glasses perched on the end of her nose again as she peers over them, examining me like some kind of specimen. "Caulter?" she asks innocently. She draws out his name, letting it roll off her tongue.
I roll my eyes and huff loudly, turning over onto my stomach, mostly so I can avoid making eye contact with her. I'm afraid if I look at her, she'll be able to read my thoughts, tell what happened with me and Caulter. I force a casualness into my voice I definitely don't feel, although I don't have to fake the disgust that naturally seeps into my tone. "Caulter. Her son."
"That's right," she says. "I almost forgot. She has a son. He's like, a total train wreck, isn't he?"
"He's a disaster. Completely and utterly." There's no way that Jo, with her affinity for tabloid magazines and gossip, almost forgot that Ella Sterling has a son. She's been dying to ask, I know she has. She must have seen the photo of us that got reposted a million times online. But I'm cranky, and I definitely don't want to talk to her about Caulter.
Jo rolls onto her side and rests on her hand, her elbow on the dock. "Tell me everything."
I open my mouth, intending to give her the same dismissive, truncated shit I gave her about Ella, but instead, this torrent of words is unleashed, like something beyond my control. "He's such a....prick," I say. "He think's he's some big rebel, you know? Like with his piercings and tattoos. No offense, I mean..." I look down at Jo's new cherry blossoms and she laughs.
"None taken," she says. "Keep going."
"And his stupid chain-smoking. It's disgusting. He blew it in my fucking face. My mother died of cancer, for shit's sake. You'd think he would have some sense of decency."
"What an ass," she says.
"Exactly. He's just this arrogant, condescending, smartass jerk. He's crude and disgusting and he's pretty much slept with every girl at Brighton. Probably in Manhattan. And Hollywood." I roll my eyes. "They throw themselves at him. Like he's sex on a stick or something."
"Or like he's some kind of celebrity?" Jo's tone is teasing.
"Whatever," I say. "He's not a damn celebrity. He's the child of a celebrity. There's a big difference. He's not famous for anything. It's the equivalent of calling me a Senator."
Jo wrinkles her nose. "Didn't he do some reality show?"
"Did he?" I'm not being coy; I really don't know. Would Caulter do a reality show? It doesn't sound like his kind of gig. I would think he would consider it beneath him. But who the hell knows with Caulter, anyway. He's unpredictable. A loose cannon.
Jo gives a non-committal shrug. "Maybe I'm thinking of that other guy, the one who was followed by the camera crew when he was in rehab. It doesn't matter. So you can't stand him. Obviously."