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Authors: Miller,Cassie-Ann L.

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Chapter 4

 

8 years ago…

 

 

Isla comes and leans on the locker right next to me. “I am officially saving my virginity for Zayn Wilkinson,” she announces dreamily, clutching her English book to her chest.

 

I snicker as I rifle through my locker in search of my purple binder. “Great to see that your life goals are all mapped out.”

 

She sneers at me. “You won’t be laughing when Zayn and I are making out at the prom while you’re in the corner alone stuffing your face with trail mix and lukewarm fruit punch.”

 

“Whatever,” I sigh. “I like trail mix. And I’ve already decided that I’m not going to the prom.”

 

Isla gives me an incredulous look. She opens her mouth, probably to chide me about the foolishness of missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is senior prom, but just then, I feel a playful tug on my ponytail from behind. When I glance back, I see Keeland walking by me, grin spread wide from ear-to-ear. “Tag, you’re it, Mrs. Masters,” he teases before giving a nod to Isla.

 

My friend giggles softly as he slinks away. “Mmm. Keeland Masters
so
wants to bone you.” She smacks her freshly-glossed lips.

 

Yeah, right.

 

While I’m usually a disheveled mess in jeans and plain sweaters, my best friend has the fashion sense of a real life Barbie doll. Plus, she towers over my shrimpy frame even when she’s not wearing her stylish platform sandals. Guys are lining up to date her, not me.

 

My eyes follow Keeland down the hall. “He does not,” I insist. “He’s just teasing me. ‘Cause he’s Daniel’s best friend and I’m Daniel’s little sister…And besides, I totally
don’t want to bone him.”

 

She spits out a laugh. “As if you could resist…They don’t call him ‘Master Kee’ for nothing.”

 

I cringe when she mentions Keeland’s tacky-as-hell nickname.

 

Master Kee…Master
key
. Get it?

 

The guys on the football team started calling him that after a rumor started going around that uptight Gretchen Halliwell had given him her virginity. I overheard Daniel explaining to one of their friends that Keeland had the ‘master key’ because he could unlock even the tightest of pussies.

 

Ew. Just ew.

 

I flip my long brown ponytail over my shoulder nonchalantly and turn to my locker, averting Isla’s probing gaze. “I can
so
resist Keeland. I don’t get what all the fuss is about. He’s not even that cute.” As I say the words, I have to take a quick glimpse down to make sure that my lying pants aren’t on fire.

 

My best friend gives me an exasperated look. “Whatever – he totally wants you. I can see it in those sparkling blue eyes,” she says poetically.

 

I slam my locker shut and face her. “You’re delusional.”

 

She scoffs. “You know you want him, too. You turn into a total weirdo whenever he comes around.”

 

I furrow my brows. “I do
not
,” I say defensively.

 

“Yes, you do,” she insists. “I’ll prove it.” She loops her arm through mine, dragging me down the hall.

 

“Where are we going?” I ask, moving reluctantly alongside her.

 

“To talk to Keeland,” she announces. Before I have time to protest, she’s tapping on his shoulder as he opens his locker. “Heya, Keeland.”

 

“What’s up, Isla?”

 

“Who ya taking to prom?”

 

He looks into his locker and shrugs. “Haven’t thought much about it.”

 

I hock a laugh. He hasn’t thought about it much? He’s the captain of the football team, for crying out loud. I’d bet that half the cheerleading squad has been dropping him not-so-subtle hints for weeks.

 

He turns to me. “Who’s taking
you
, Samantha?”

 

“I’m—I, um, I’m not going. The prom is totally lame, anyway.” The truth is, no one asked me. I’m the youngest person in our class thanks to the fact that I skipped the fourth grade. While that made my parents extremely proud to have a ‘gifted’ child, it sort of mucked up my social life. It feels like most of my classmates look down on me as Daniel’s cute little sister and don’t really take me seriously. And unfortunately, none of the guys dare to cross big, bad Daniel by taking his sister on a date.

 

Until now…

 

Keeland gives me a determined look. “Me and you, we’ll go together. It’ll be fun.” He says it so casually. Like it’s a perfectly logical idea.

 

Isla laughs hysterically. “That’s funny. As if Daniel would let you.”

 

Keeland shoos her away with the flick of his wrist. “I’ll deal with Daniel,” he says confidently.

 

The bell rings and Isla adjusts the strap of the oversized purse on her shoulder and smooths back her already-smooth blonde ponytail. “Okay, well I guess I’ll pick up an outfit for your funeral when I go shopping for my prom dress this weekend.”

 

He chuckles. “You’re a trip, Isla.” He waves his physics books at us as he strolls towards the science lab.

 

Isla turns with a flourish and clutches my arm, dragging me towards our English class.

 

She’s rambling on and on about…something, but I don’t hear her. Because I’m on cloud nine.

 

I think Keeland Masters just asked me to the prom.

 

Chapter 5

 

 

8 years ago…

 

 

“You look so gorgeous, sweetheart,” my mother coos as she sets the curling iron down on the dresser and peers at me in the mirror. Her eyes are misty and she’s sniffling. I think she’s more excited about the prom than I am.

 

And I’m pretty damn excited.

 

I’m going to the prom with Keeland Masters! I’m so psyched I could break out into the Macarena at any moment. I’ve had to pinch myself several times just to make sure I’m not dreaming.

 

It almost didn’t happen because Daniel had thrown a fit when Keeland told him that I was his date. Then, dad had refused to give me permission when I’d asked. Thank god mom had sat them both down and given them a good talking-to. And now, I’m going to the prom with Keeland Masters!

 

*Pinch*

 

I’m standing in front of the mirror in my flowy, cerulean halter dress. It accentuates the wide hips that pay homage to my mother’s Puerto Rican heritage while complimenting the pale Celtic complexion that I inherited from my father. My long, dark hair falls in silky curls down my back and my lips wear a peachy gloss.

 

I
do
look gorgeous.

 

Just as I’m slipping on my crystal chandelier earrings, Daniel knocks on the door and bursts into my bedroom without waiting for a response. He’s red and out of breath. The knot of his tie is crooked and perspiration sheens on his forehead. “Mom – have you seen Jane today? Nancy and Delores are on the front porch. They say they saw her pack up her car this morning and speed off with Keeland and Maxwell.”

 

Concern instantly fills my mother’s eyes as she rushes out of the room, Daniel following behind her.

 

No no no. No. Not today. No.

 

I pad slowly down the stairs, wiping my clammy hands against my dress.

 

Not today. Please.

 

The past few weeks have been too good, too perfect. My crush asked me to the prom. I bought a dress and got my hair done.

 

Not today.

 

In the back of my mind, I’ve always known that the Masters’ would bolt again. It’s their
modus operandi
. I just never imagined that they’d pull their disappearing act today, on prom day.

 

As I step out onto the porch, I see my brother kick at the Master’s front door in frustration. My mother huddles with Nancy and Delores in the driveway, speaking in hushed tones. She glances at me, tears shining in her compassionate eyes.

 

It’s true…

 

They’re gone. Without a word. Without a goodbye. He’s gone.

 

I’m paralyzed. I can’t move. I knew this was all too good to be true.

 

A girl like me doesn’t get to go to prom with a guy like Keeland Masters.

 

Chapter 6

 

 

Present day…

 

 

“Sammie!”

 

Before I’ve even had the chance to fully process that it’s actually
him
standing in the doorway in front of me, he ropes his sinewy, inked arms around my shoulders and pulls me in for a tight squeeze.

 

God –
He’s just a pillar of steely muscles covered in a layer of soft, warm, tattooed skin...

 

I’m trying hard not to like it.

 

Chaos swirls inside of me and I have no idea how to react.
I haven’t seen this guy in eight years. He disappeared into thin air on our prom day, shattering my 17-year-old heart in the process. And now, he’s back and he’s acting like it’s the good old days.

 

He finally releases me and pushes me back slightly to hold me at arm’s length. “Well, look at you. You’re all grown up, Sammie Trotten.”

 

His focus moves lazily from my eyes to my lips, then down my neck before settling on my breasts (which are squished together in my tight neon green yoga bra). Then, he continues down my bare stomach, my wide hips, my toned calves.

 

Looking rather satisfied, he smirks.

 

“What are you doing here?” I snap angrily.

 

My sharp tone seems to startle him. He drops his hands from my shoulders and steps back. “Ah, that’s right. Daniel’s been trying to call you since yesterday. He couldn’t reach you. He wanted to let you know that I’ll be staying here for a while.”

 

“You’re staying here?” I grimace. It’s just like Daniel to spring something like this on me without warning. I would have appreciated the opportunity to prepare for this. Or to say ‘no’. I’m not happy at all to have Keeland staying next door again.

 

And no, I’m
not
petty.

 

What he did to me was damn shitty. Yes, I get it. He was just a kid and his family was moving. He didn’t have a choice. But he never once tried to reach out to me and offer an explanation, and possibly an apology, for what had happened. I spent a lot of time wondering about him over the years. I imagined a thousand scenarios as to why the Masters’ left, where they went and if they’d ever come back. I imagined some pretty tragic, heart-breaking stuff.

 

Then, a few years later, I found him on Facebook, healthy and well and hotter than sin. And one not-so-sober night, I sent him a friend request.

 

He never responded.

 

What kind of person does that?...A shitty person, that’s who.

 

Yet, every few days, he would update his status or post new pictures. Despite the sharpness of the resentment inside of me, I just couldn't look away. Apparently, he’d opened a tattoo shop in Los Angeles and it was thriving. He would post pictures of work he’d done on B-list celebrities or carefree trust fund kids. Every now and then, there would be a picture of himself partying with friends like he didn’t have a care in the world.

 

Then, photos of him with a girl started popping up. She had acid blonde hair and intricate tattoos covering most of her skin. According to Facebook, her name was RhysTheBadAss O’Gallic.

 

Yeah, I know

 

There was one photo in particular that was a sledgehammer to my gut. His arms were tight around her shoulders and his lips were pressed to her temple. Her heavy makeup made her eyes smolder as she stuck out her pierced tongue and held up her middle finger to the camera. That photo devastated me because it confirmed beyond a doubt that Keeland hadn’t spent his years sitting around thinking about me the way that I’d been thinking about him. He’d found happiness with a girl who was my polar opposite.

 

The photos of him with RhysTheBadAss and the increasingly-romantic captions that accompanied them just kept coming. And like a fiend, I couldn’t stay away.

 

But then one day, the pictures just stopped. And so did the nauseatingly-sweet status updates.

 

For over three years, there has been radio silence from Keeland's Facebook page. I eventually came to the bitter conclusion that I'd never see his face again. Not on social media. Not in real life.

 

But now he's right here, standing in front of me. Tall and shirtless and dripping testosterone. And by the way, fuck him for looking so good. Especially when I look like a sweaty, unkempt mess.

 

Keeland’s expression hardens. “Is my staying here gonna be a problem?” he asks, one eyebrow inching up on his forehead.

 

I grumble, shifting all my weight to one foot and stubbornly folding my arms across my chest. I want to say ‘yes’. I want to tell him to get the hell out of here and to never come back. But in my head, I hear echoes of the tiny, insecure teenager that I used to be. For some reason, I don’t want him to think that I’m an absolute bitch. Even after the way he treated me. I kind of still want him to like me.

 

“Your motorcycle,” I say nodding towards the bike sprawled off in the driveway. “
Really
loud.”

 

He looks over at it. “Ah — sorry about that. I was just doing some repairs. But you’re right. This is a quiet neighborhood. I should have been more considerate. Tell you what? I’m gonna just have it towed to the garage and let the professionals deal with it.” He winks at me.

 

I think he expects me to smile.

 

I don’t.

 

“Yes, please keep it down,” I say sourly. “I was in the middle of my meditation.” I don’t wait for him to respond, I just turn on my heels and trudge down the stairs.

 

“Hey Sam,” he calls after me as I stomp away.

 

I spin around and glare at him.

 

He smiles anyway. “You forgot something,” he says, waving my rake around in the air.

 

Well, there goes my dramatic exit.
I grunt angrily as I march back up the stairs and snatch the stupid rake out of his stupid hand.

 

He grabs me by the wrist and I feel fire crawl across my flesh. “Daniel and some other guys are taking me to grab a drink later,” he tells me. “You should come.”

 

I shrug out of his grasp and continue to give him the stink eye. “Sorry, I can’t make it.” I hurry down the stairs before he tries to change my mind.

 

Nancy and Delores amble gingerly up the walkway, freshly-baked cranberry muffins and oatmeal cookies in hand.

 

The neighborhood welcome committee has arrived.

 

“Well hello, there, Samantha,” Nancy says cheekily. “I see that you’ve already taken the opportunity to grace the newcomer with your lovely, affable personality.”

 

Delores peeks over my shoulder right at him. “Darling, please don’t scare the nice young man away with your silly pout-face.” She wrinkles up her nose at me.

 

“Keeland Masters is anything but nice, Delores,” I say as I breeze past them.

 

Nancy lifts an eyebrow. “Keeland Masters? Jane’s son?”

 

I nod. “Yup, he’s back in town.” My frowning expression clearly broadcasts my displeasure at that fact.

 

Delores sighs dreamily. “Well, he may not be nice, but he certainly looks
…virile.

 

I stop in my tracks and spin around to face her.

 

Did she really just say that?

 

From the way she’s clutching her pearls and staring at him with flushed, wrinkly cheeks, I can tell that she did.

 

Cringe!

 

Nancy rolls her eyes. “Don’t go making a fool of yourself, Delores,” she warns. “Remember what the doctor said when he changed your blood pressure medication.”

 

Delores shoos her away dismissively. “We definitely need more young men like him in Reyfield.” She flinches slightly under the heat of Nancy’s disapproving stare. “We are all safer when strapping young men like that live in our community.” She almost sounds earnest.

 

I toss a peek over my shoulder and see Keeland leaning against the doorjamb, staring at us with an amused look on his face. He gives us a small wave and Delores looks like she might need some smelling salts and a glass of ice water.

 

I turn away, angrier than ever. “Anyway, ladies. He’s all yours. Enjoy,” I say with a huff as I stomp across the lawn back to my now-ruined meditation oasis.

 

My zen has evaporated like a puff of smoke. Now, I need a stiff drink.

 

Keeland Masters is back next door.

 

I’m going to
kill
my brother.

BOOK: Dirty Neighbor (The Dirty Suburbs)
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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