Authors: Renee Ericson
Tags: #General Fiction
“Sounds fun,” Autumn says with a bit too much enthusiasm for a canoe trip.
“Sure,” Casey adds.
Lexi hasn’t been paying any attention at all. As she’s looking to my left, I turn to see Owen headed in our direction. He walks directly over to Lexi, getting real close to her, and then he leans in to whisper something in her ear. I see her titter a bit, leaning in his direction. Holding her arm, he leads her to a bench off to the side where they sit together.
Well, looks like she’s occupied for a little while.
Happily occupied, I’m sure.
When I turn back to the rest of the group, I notice Autumn closing the gap, inching closer to Liam. He smiles at her for way longer than a moment before looking to me.
Uh, is something going on there?
“So, Ruby,” Liam continues casually, “you running track in the spring?”
“Yep, that’s the plan. I’m doing winter track, too. How about you?”
“Nah, I think I’ll focus on soccer this year. I’m planning to play indoor this winter after the fall season. I think I’ll skip spring track. Nothing to be gained from that at this point.”
“Why would you do that?”
“My dad says playing indoor might help me get exposure for a scholarship.”
“Oh right. Didn’t your brother get one to state when he graduated?”
“Yeah,” he says with a sigh. “We’ll see though.”
Liam looks over to Lexi and Owen and then to Autumn and Casey. He appears to be running something through his mind as he puckers his lips to the side.
“You look like you’ve had a good summer,” he says, looking back at me again.
“I have. It’s been good.” I can tell he’s biding his time with me a little. I can play along. “Can you believe we go back in two weeks? Last year and that’s it.”
“I know.” He grins, tilting up one side of his mouth. “So, are you going to the football opener in two weeks?”
“Yeah, Ruby, are you going?” Brent asks from my right side.
Taking me by surprise, he kind of scares the shit out of me.
Where did he come from?
“Uh,” I hesitate. I look to Brent, who is wearing a sexy smile, and then I glance at Liam, catching him glance once again at Lexi and Owen and then to Autumn and Casey.
Geez, he really needs to just make his move on one of them.
He’s not being very subtle. I back a step away from both of them and reply, “I hadn’t really thought about it. Um, maybe?”
“You should come,” Brent chimes in. “We’re all going. Right, Liam?”
“Right,” Liam replies absently.
“Sure, I’ll go,” I say, looking at both of them as I shrug my shoulders.
“Cool.” Brent looks at me, dimples blazing.
Okay, does he smile like that all the time? It’s not just me, right?
Autumn and Casey join our conversation about school starting soon, but after a while, they start talking to Liam primarily. While they talk about a fishing trip that holds little interest for me, I try to be polite and make comments at the appropriate moments.
“So, Ruby, when did you move here again?” Brent asks, pulling my attention to him.
“Sophomore year. My dad and I moved here from Colorado.”
“Why would you move here when you lived in Colorado? Everything I hear about that place is awesome.”
Not wanting to get into it or give too much away, I simply reply, “Work.”
“Ah,” he says. “Well, that sucks. You must miss it.”
“Yeah, I do.” I sigh longingly. “I really miss it.”
“Well, there’s lots of stuff to do around here, too. Don’t be too bummed out. Maybe you just haven’t had the right tour guide,” Brent says with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Maybe,” I sing and then snicker.
A tour guide?
I don’t think this town offers anything like that.
“So, do you want me to give you a tour?” he asks in full earnest.
Crap, he isn’t kidding around. Oops.
“A tour? Do something fun? With me?” he asks.
“Um, like what?”
Yes, I’m skeptical.
“I don’t know. How about you let me surprise you?” He has a bit of mischief in his eyes, which looks ridiculous on his pretty face.
Yep, he’s flirting.
“You want to surprise me?”
“Well, I’d sure like to try. How about tomorrow?”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
Oh crap, that just came out of my mouth.
“I mean, yeah. Sure. Okay.”
I have been reduced to one-word sentences.
He’s trying to be polite, but I can tell he finds the whole thing humorous. He takes my number and says he’ll call me tomorrow morning. Then, he leaves to grab another beer. I’m still not so sure, but maybe Lexi wasn’t kidding.
As he walks away, I scan around and see that Lexi is still speaking to Owen on the bench. They’re sitting very close together. Brent walks up and says a few words to them, and then he continues to the fire where a small and somewhat loud group has gathered. When I look back to Lexi, she waves me over.
“I was thinking about bouncin’ soon. I’m beat from the week,” she says to me.
“Oh, that’s cool. We can go whenever you’re ready,” I assure her. “It’s almost midnight, and I’m beat, too.”
Just go with the flow.
We chat for a few more minutes and then say good-bye to mostly everyone. On the way out, Brent reiterates that he’ll call me tomorrow.
On our way home, Lexi goes on and on about Owen, describing the many ways and places she would like to feel his tongue.
Holy cow, her boy-crazy talk is beyond over the top. Are all girls like this?
I’ve known her for a while, but I’ve never noticed this kind of obsession.
“So, what’s up with Brent?” she asks me as we’re pulling into her driveway.
What? Something not about Owen?
“What do you mean?”
“Oh c’mon, Ruby! You know what I mean. So, you talked to him?”
“Yeah, I talked to him. He said something about a tour tomorrow. He said he would call, but I don’t know.”
“Trust me, he’s calling you,” she says with the widest grin I’ve ever seen on her face.
I roll my eyes and open the door, hoping to avoid the conversation. It’s likely nothing.
So what if he asked for my number? I’m probably one of many.
I change the subject.
“So, what’s up with Owen?” I ask.
Lexi takes the bait, and I listen to her talk about Owen’s green eyes, sexy pecs, and beautiful hair for the next twenty minutes. She goes on and on until my eyes are heavy, and then we fall asleep in her room.
In the morning, I wake up at Lexi’s and then start heading home by nine. Remembering there was zero food at the house yesterday, I stop at the market and pick up what I need to make pancakes along with milk, sausage, and some stuff for sandwiches and dinner. Since he’ll pay me back, I buy enough for both my dad and me because I know he’ll eat something if I bring it home.
Coming through the back door, I stroll into the house with my overnight bag over one shoulder while carrying two grocery bags on my other arm. I drop my backpack on the floor and scoot the groceries along with my keys on the counter.
“Tuesday!” my dad yells from the bedroom. “Is that you?”
When I was born, my dad was a big Rolling Stones fan. He loved the song “Ruby Tuesday,” hence the name Ruby and nickname Tuesday. He’s been calling me that for as long as I can remember.
“Yeah, Dad,” I reply at a lower level.
Making his way into the kitchen, my dad notices the groceries and heads over to the counter. He peers inside the bags and then starts to unload stuff into the fridge and cabinets.
“Do you want some pancakes?” he asks.
“Sure, I’m gonna take a shower first though.”
My dad smiles at me before he starts making breakfast.
After showering, I dress and head back to the kitchen. I sit at the table, watching my dad do some pancake magic on the stove.
“Got your note,” he says as he turns a pancake. “Have fun?”
“Yeah, I went to a friend’s house, and we just hung out,” I reply, fidgeting with the napkin holder.
“What do you have on tap for today?” he asks while he scoops up some pancakes and sausage. He picks up the two loaded plates and joins me at the table.
“Not sure yet. Maybe a movie. How about you?”
“Jas and I were gonna head to Ace’s. They’re having a darts tournament.” My dad pauses for a moment, wiping his mouth, and then he reaches in his pocket. He pulls out his wallet and places three $20 bills on the table. “Does that cover groceries?”
“Yeah, thanks,” I say, taking the money with a forced smile.
“So, when does school start?”
“In two weeks,” I tell him through a mouthful of food. “I have one more week at camp and then a week off before school starts.”
“Oh.” He seems lost in thought. “Do you need any money for supplies?”
“Um, I would like to get some new clothes, but it can wait. I think I have everything else,” I say tentatively.
We don’t have much money, and I hate asking him for stuff. It seems pointless most of the time. I’d like to think he wants to help, but he just has a hard time coming through.
“Well, I get paid next week. Can it wait until then?”
“Oh…um, yeah,” I respond in a monotone voice. Internally, I’m cheering. I wasn’t planning on any funds.
We sit at the table eating in comfortable silence. My dad looks better than usual this morning. He must not have gone out last night, instead opting for a good night’s sleep, or maybe he was so trashed before that he woke up after the bars were closed.
Looking at him now, I can almost see another version of my dad, a version I rarely see anymore. I’ve seen pictures of him when he was younger, and I have to admit that he used to be really handsome. It’s no wonder he and my mom hooked up. They met during his last year with the armed services when he was stationed in Colorado Springs, and she worked at a local restaurant. Then, I guess they fell in love.
When his commitment was up, my dad left the army because my mom couldn’t stand the idea of moving so often. He found a job doing electronic work in a local plant. They were married shortly after, and then I was born a year later.
I don’t remember my mother, but from her photos, I know she was stunning. She had dark hair and eyes, like me, with a sweet and engaging smile. My dad says she had the most infectious laugh, and she was generally just a happy person.
Tragically, she was killed in a car accident when I was almost three. One late afternoon in January, she was driving home from work when a van slid on a bad patch of ice and hit her car head on.
The way he is now is not the way my dad used to be. Sure, I noticed when he was a little sad sometimes, but he was nothing like he is here in this town. Living in Colorado, he was much more responsible and engaging, but that probably isn’t saying much since he isn’t any of those things now.
We used to do things together, not a lot of things, but we did normal father-daughter stuff. We used to camp on the weekends. He was the one that encouraged me to run track. He even used to ride his bike and time my sprints while I trained.
It’s not like that anymore. I miss those days. Colorado was more than just a fun place. For me, it was memories of better times. Most notably, he wasn’t a mess there. Maybe he had a problem back then, but here, he’s out of control. He’s not himself at all.
Everything here seems to just breed bad news for my family. About two months after we arrived, my dad turned a corner. Not a good one. He started hanging out with my Uncle Jas and his old friends, doing the same stuff I guess they used to do when they were in high school. Jas isn’t like my dad though. He’s not out of control, but he’s not exactly role model material either.
Somehow, I’ve ended up being collateral damage in the whole thing. Basically, I’ve been shoved to the side.
Am I pissed about it? Yes. Is there anything I can do about it? No.
So, I just do what I can until my time here is up.
As we’re finishing up breakfast, Uncle Jas walks in through the back door.
“Oh, hey, Ruby. I didn’t know you were home,” Jas says. “Is there any food for me?” He points to our breakfast.
“Yeah,” my dad says, turning toward him. “Just get a plate and help yourself.”
Jas turns the corner, grabs a plate, and dishes on a few pancakes and sausage links.
Jas and my dad look very similar with their chestnut hair and dark brown eyes. However, my dad has a softer face, making him look younger than he really is. They’re Irish twins, born within a year of each other. I guess they used to pick up girls and party together. Apparently, they’ve continued that tradition since we moved here. Most of their
now take place at Ace’s, the bar down the street.
“Ruby, we need help at the garage if you need some money,” Jas says to me as he sits in the seat between my dad and me. “It’s just answering phones and making appointments, but the pay is better than minimum.”
Although the extra cash sounds good, I’m not interested. I don’t want to see any of Jas’s friends more than I have to. Plus, I hate the smell of the garage. Not only does it have that rubber tire and car fluid smell, it also has that really bad man smell mixed with really cheap cologne. I get nauseous just thinking about it. Luckily, I have an excuse for not being able to work there.
“Uh, thanks, but I’m actually going back to the restaurant after school starts,” I say with a short smile as I get up and dump my dishes in the sink.
Then, I head into the living area and pull out my drawing pad. Doodling is my mindless pastime. While my dad and Jas start talking about some buddy of theirs who’s having a bonfire later, my mind begins to wander to last night.
His good looks are undeniable, but I get the feeling there’s something more to him than just that. There seems to be so much life in his eyes. I’m guessing they’ve probably never seen much hardship. Maybe it’s just him. He has a really good nose, strong chin…and those lips! I never thought about them before, but now, I can’t stop thinking about the way they moved when he spoke to me. I think Lexi’s boy obsession might be rubbing off on me.