Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
Yep, that’s enough for me.
I get up and walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I know his last comment about my period is something he said just to get a rise out of me. As I name his stupid little game “Rude Comments to Make Ruby Lose Her Marbles,” I hear him approaching from the living room.
“If you guys need the hook-up tonight, don’t be a stranger,” he says all jokes aside as he opens the back door. “I gotcha covered.”
Great. Just great.
After Cody leaves the house, I quickly change into running clothes and do a five-mile loop to the lake and back to burn off some frustration. I’m not really a distance runner. Shorter sprints are my specialty due to track, but the long run helps me to clear my mind.
The air in my face always helps to calm me down, bringing everything back into perspective. During my run, I remind myself that I have only one year left here. It’s not a prison sentence, just mandatory time, and then I’m free to go. Whether it’s college, a commune, work on a boat, waiting tables in Vegas, or whatever, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s away from here.
My hopes have always been set on college. We don’t have much money, and I doubt my dad has set aside a dime for school. I’m hoping though, with my academic status and the fact that our family economics are considered somewhat dire, that I can get a scholarship and some financial assistance.
There are some good things about this town. One of the perks of where we live is that it’s close to the lake and a ton of hiking trails. I can’t deny my love for the lake. Camp White Ash is on the other side of it from where we live, but people can dock a canoe over here as well. There’s also a boat club not too far down the street, but I never go there. It’s a private club, so membership costs money. Some people I know from school—well, their parents—have boats docked there.
After my head is sufficiently cleared from my run, I head home, change out the laundry, and hop in the shower to get ready for tonight.
Finishing up in the bathroom, I walk to my room with a towel on my head. Along the way, I peek in on my dad to see if he’s where I left him.
Yep, he is. Good Lord, he’s out of it.
I pack a few things, such as toiletries, clothes, and a little makeup, for tonight. Dressing in a pair of low-rise skinny jeans and a fitted tee with an image of a glass of lemonade on the front, I push my feet into a pair of flip-flops. I start to brush and dry my brown hair that now has a few highlights from the sun along with a bit of frizz from the humidity associated with Midwest summers.
Next is the face. Luckily, I have a tan from being outdoors, so no foundation or blush are needed. Instead, I concentrate on accentuating my dark brown eyes, using a dark liner and mascara to make them pop. Then, I top the lids with a burnt honey color, hoping to bring out the gold ring around the iris. I smile a little at my reflection, noticing that it works.
Sufficiently ready to go, I pick up my overnight bag and clutch. I head to the kitchen and write a note for my dad to let him know that I’ll see him in the morning.
Scratch that. Who knows if he’ll get up tonight?
So, I simply write:
See you Saturday.
I grab a bite to eat before meeting Lexi at her house at seven.
I have to use the GPS on my phone to get to Lexi’s house since I don’t recognize the street name. She lives in one of the nicer developments in town, but by no means would I say they live in an affluent neighborhood.
I pull into the driveway, making sure not to block anyone in. Then, I grab my stuff, open the car door, and walk up to her front door. I’m a little nervous about being here for the first time since I don’t know her parents. Parents, at least normal ones, are something I’m not sure I understand.
After wiping the sweat off the palm of my hand onto my jeans, I press the doorbell. I hear a high-pitched squeal from inside the house. I assume it’s Lexi, and then less than ten seconds later, she whips open the door.
“Whoop! Whoop!” she sings, jumping up and down while she claps her hands.
The girl is a nut.
Does she ever calm down?
“Excited, are we?” I ask through a snort and giggle.
“Get in here!” she practically screams, yanking me through the door.
She then runs up the steps, so I follow. When we get to what I assume is her room, she pulls me in and closes the door behind her. Quickly, I look around and notice two twin beds, a desk, a dresser with a mirror, and a ton of posters that practically cover every inch of the taupe-colored walls.
Lexi bounces over to her closet and starts to sort through her clothes. “Let’s get you a sexy shirt. You can borrow one of mine,” she says, gathering a few options in her hands.
They all look very…um, tight.
“Here, try these on,” she continues, tossing the shirts on the bed.
Using the tips of my fingers, I pick up one that looks like a halter top of sorts with a red-and-cream pattern on the fabric. “Are you sure? This kind of looks slutty. Is slutty in fashion?” I ask.
“It’s not slutty,” she replies. “It’s hot.”
I pull off my lemonade tee and slip on the halter. If I’m going to wear this little number, the bra has got to go, so I fling it into my bag sitting on the bed. Fortunately, the halter is made with built-in support. I’m not overly endowed, so it’s not too inappropriate.
Lexi looks me over and nods, confirming that it meets her approval. “Now that, my friend, is hot,” she says. Then, she puts on a similar halter, but hers is navy blue with a gold trim.
We kind of look like twins, but not really. With her gold hair and blue-gray eyes, no one would ever mistake us for sisters, let alone twins.
“Thanks. That color looks nice on you, by the way,” I offer, taking a seat on the bed. “So, what’s the plan?”
“We’re leaving here and meeting Brent at the market at eight, and then we’re all going over together,” she states while she fiddles with her hair.
“Cool,” I reply. “So, is Frankie going, too?”
“Uh, no,” she serenades negatively to the mirror. Then, she turns to look at me. “He and Frankie broke up about a month ago.”
“Humph,” I mutter, looking at the ground.
“He actually called me when I got home this afternoon. He had a lot of questions about you.” She lifts her brow, giving me a taunting devilish glare.
“Girl, I think he likes you.” She giggles.
“Stop. That’s ludicrous.”
“Ruby, seriously, I’m not kidding. He called, asking me all sorts of questions about you. He wanted to know if you were coming with us to Owen’s. I’m not making this crap up.”
Brent Cromwell was asking about me?
Okay, calm down, Ruby
. Even though he’s totally drool-worthy, that doesn’t mean I need to start fainting because he asked a few questions about me.
Remember, he’s still a person—a universally agreed-upon hot person.
“Whatever,” I tell her. “So, when do you want to leave?”
“Soon and I’ll drive.”
“Sounds good to me.”
An hour later, in Lexi’s late model Honda Accord, we pull into the market parking lot. Stopping next to an Audi hatchback, Lexi rolls down her window, and I look over to see the passenger window of the Audi descending as well. I can see Brent sitting in the driver’s seat with that damn lethal grin of his.
Seriously? That thing should be illegal.
“Hey, ladies,” Brent says casually. “You two ready to go?”
“You betcha!” Lexi shouts, giving a resounding whoop.
Oh my word.
She is way too excited. Finding myself on the edge of giggles as well, I just shake my head at the both of them. Silliness does not become me.
“All right, follow me.” He chuckles and then takes off out of the lot.
We follow him to a side of town near where Lexi lives, but it’s less populated. This area isn’t as developed yet, but I know the housing being built here is pretty nice—actually, more than nice. As we pull up the street, I’m not surprised at the size or the details of the houses. The word
comes to mind with
following close behind.
We park on the street in front of a large house, which I assume is Owen’s. It’s only 8:30, but there are already quite a few cars here.
I hope this isn’t a big party because I tend to get lost at those. I’m not one for big groups.
We all get out at the same time and head up the front lawn. Brent leads the way while Lexi and I walk together. Without knocking, he opens the front door, holding it for us. There isn’t much noise in the house, which likely means everyone is out back. We follow Brent through the house to a set of French doors that lead to the patio. Yep, everyone is out here, congregating around the in-ground pool and fire pit.
Nice, and um, wow.
This is nothing like my house. Our pool costs $25 and usually holds ice and beer while old car wheels are our version of a fire pit.
I look around the crowd, and I’m relieved to see that this really is more of a gathering than a party. Dressed in a halter top, I’m slightly chilled, so I eye the fire as my next destination point.
Why didn’t I wear a jacket?
Fashion over comfort is overrated.
“Ruby, you wanna get a drink?” Lexi asks.
We head over to the cooler near the house, leaving Brent, and I pick out an alcoholic lemonade. I’m not really a beer girl, and I know better than to take something that isn’t in a bottle. I don’t care if we do live in a small town; I never know if someone has a secret agenda.
Best not to be careless.
With drinks in hand, we head over to the group surrounding the fire. It’s mostly guys, but I see two girls I recognize as Autumn and Casey from the volleyball team. Lexi is on the team with them, so I follow her over to stand near them and the fire.
Thank you, warmth.
“Casey, Autumn,” Lexi greets them. “What’s up?”
“Nothing. We were just chatting about the new movie with that hot guy in it. You know the one. You wanna come with us to see it tomorrow?” Autumn asks.
“Maybe,” Lexi says and then takes a swig from her bottled drink. “Day or night?”
“Matinee. I have to work tomorrow night,” Casey adds.
“Sure then. You wanna come, too, Ruby?” she asks, turning to face me.
I look to Autumn and Casey to see if they’re okay with her invitation to me. Although I know them from classes, we aren’t exactly friends. However, I can tell that Lexi’s acceptance is all they need to accept me, too.
“Sure, I’m free,” I say and then take a sip of my drink.
Autumn, Casey, Lexi, and I chat for the next fifteen minutes or so. Every once in a while, one of the girls’ eyes wanders, obviously checking out the boys, but other than that, we seem to be pretty engaged with one another. I can sense a few male eyes wandering our way, but I’m holding my ground and not looking.
I hate this game. Lexi has made me curious about this Brent “thing,” but I don’t want to feed that fire because she’s obviously mistaken. I can’t deny that something’s feeding my ego and my gut about the idea of Brent Cromwell having an interest in me. After all, I am still human.
I notice that Lexi keeps looking over my shoulder. Based on the voices I hear behind me, I’m assuming she’s checking out a group of guys. Her eyes are also way too interested, so I know it’s not some stray animal or anything like that. I’m tempted to take a peek, but then I think better of it. Instead, I glare at Lexi until she locks eyes with me.
“What’s up?” I ask, hoping she knows what I’m talking about.
She leans in and whispers, “Owen, Liam, and Brent keep looking over here.”
I tilt back and look at her.
She continues talking quietly, close to my ear. “Owen is so yummy. Edible. Hot. I think I’m in love.”
I know she’s just infatuated and isn’t serious about the love part. Her dedication to the observance of the male population is more than noticeable.
Boys. Boys. Boys.
“Hey, ladies,” a male voice says.
As the guy sneaks up beside me, Autumn, Casey, Lexi, and I look to my left toward the voice. As I begin to turn my head, the first thing I notice is a lean bicep wrapped in a red cotton T-shirt, and then I catch a whiff of a light cologne scent. I tilt my gaze up about eight inches and see the profile of a familiar guy with shaggy dark blond hair. He smiles at everyone, greeting them politely, then he looks at me.
“Liam,” I say, “how’s your summer been?”
We had a few classes together over the last year, and our lockers were near each other since our last names are close in the alphabet with my last name being Miller. There was only one locker between us, belonging to Piper, his twin sister.
While I think he’s cute and super sweet, we’ve always remained friends and nothing more. Liam is on the soccer team, too, and he tends to hang with Brent, Owen, and Callum a lot. I think he’s actually closer to Callum though since I see Callum more than the other two near our lockers, and it seems like Liam tends to only do sport activities with Brent and Owen.
“Oh, it’s been good. Lots of practicing,” he tells me.
Autumn eyes him and asks, “What else have you been doing?”
Looking at her, he says, “Spending most of my days on the boat with my uncle. After he lost an employee, he needed help with some of the fishing trips he runs.”
“So, Ruby, what have you been doin’?” he asks, looking back at me.
“Working at Camp White Ash. Counselor. Not much else.”
“With all those kids? Man, you
“Aw, they’re not so bad. I actually like them. They’re a bunch of goofballs. It’s all fun. Plus, I love the lake.”
“Yeah, me, too,” he replies.
“You do? We do a lot of canoeing excursions with the kids.”
“Canoeing? I haven’t done that since I was a kid. I keep forgetting you can do that.” He looks at all of us. “Maybe we should all go sometime.”