Authors: Heidi McLaughlin
Also by Heidi McLaughlin
The Beaumont Series:
Copyright © 2013 by Heidi McLaughlin
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Beads of sweat drip down my face. My shirt is soaked and filthy, but I can’t stop to change or find something else to wipe away the grime. The lawn needs to be mowed and raked before my dad comes home from work if I want any semblance of a weekend.
It’s not lik
e I have plans, but something may come up and I don’t want to give my dad an excuse to say no, not that he’d need one.
My parents are strict. Well, my dad is. My mom is okay for the most part as long as my dad isn’t around. We live on the outskirts of tow
n away from the high-traffic life of Brookfield. You know when you look in the magazines and see the town that time forgot? That’s us – except time didn’t forget, it just passed over, and when it did – my dad stayed with it. He said his life was simple when he was growing up and ours would be too.
With the lawn finished, I pull out my pre-paid cell and look at the time. It’s all I can afford and half the time I don’t have any minutes on it. I use it strictly for emergencies or when I want to look like I be
Neither of which happen very often.
Scooping up the last of the grass clippings, I push the wheelbarrow to the back corner of our lawn. We have a pile of dead grass near the fence that my dad uses in the spring to reseed the yard. He refuses to haul it off to the dump or have the garbage company pick it up.
Removing my shoes and grass-stained socks outside, I step into our sweltering house. I hate not having air conditioning, especially when the temperatures are over one hundred. If we’re lucky, the
air will cool down enough and we can place the box fans in the window tonight and try to cool down the house. I’m not counting on it though. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and it’s not supposed to stop any time soon.
My school is air-conditioned. Than
k God. If it wasn’t I’m not sure how we’d survive. School starts in a few days and I’m probably the only kid in town who is looking forward to it. I’m counting the days until I’m done. I want out of here, away from the dirt and brown grass. Away from the quiet and almost desolate life my parents lead.
I don’t know where I’m going. I just want to go. My plan is to catch the six o’clock bus one morning and never come back. I just need to make sure I have enough saved by then.
I look around the house, making sure everything is picked up. The dishes are done and put away. The newspaper is centered on my dad’s placemat, just like he requires. I’m thankful I’m not asked to cook; flipping burgers at Stan’s three nights a week is enough kitchen time for me.
ghten out the pillows on the couch before heading to the shower. It’s just one less thing for my parents to look down on when they come home. I’m allowed five minutes in the shower. My dad says any more time is just wasteful.
I set the egg timer and get i
n. I learned a long time ago to shower in the cold and enjoy the little warm water I can get toward the end of my allotted time. It’s just best this way. I’m done before the timer goes off; too bad I can’t accumulate the extra time and use it for my next shower. I would ask, but hearing no and receiving lectures all the time gets old.
When I get out of the shower, my best friend, Dylan, is laying on my bed. Her long dark hair is spread across my pillow. Her right leg is propped up on her left, her foot boun
cing. I know she’s listening to music; she always is. She peers at me over her leg, her foot stops bouncing as her eyes move up and down my body.
“What?” I ask, suddenly self-conscious standing in my room naked except for the towel covering my lower half.
She continues to stare. I have to look away when my cheeks become warm.
“Damn, Ry.” This time when she says those words her voice is raspy. “For being almost eighteen you’re freaking hot.”
I shake my head and grab some clean clothes and head b
ack to the bathroom to get dressed. She’s never said that before, not sure why she’s saying it now. I’ve seen the guys she dates and I look nothing like them.
I’ve lived in Brookfield all my life. So have my parents and their parents, too. I
didn’t meet Dylan Ross until halfway through sixth grade. She found me eating alone one day and flat-out told me she felt sorry for me. It took me two months to say something to her, but once I did she never shut up. With her came other friends, but Dylan dubbed me her best one that year. The ironic thing is that her friends have known me for years, but we’ve never hung out. I’m on the wrong side of Brookfield. There is a small group of us that hang out, but most of the guys play sports and I don’t fit in, mostly due to my social status. I would like to play some sport, maybe football or basketball, but I have to work and there is no way my dad would ever agree to pay for something like basketball shoes. I don’t fit in, never have.
Most of the guys we hang
out with like Dylan and want to date her. A few of them have asked how many times I’ve been with her and think I’m bullshitting them when I tell them we are strictly friends. I’ve never looked at her that way. Don’t get me wrong, she’s beautiful and any guy will be lucky when she finally looks in his direction. But it’s hard for me to see Dylan as more than a friend. Even if we did date, what would happen if things didn’t work out? Besides, I wouldn’t stand a chance with her. I’m her go-to guy when she’s having problems.
I tap Dylan on the foot when I’m back in the room. She pretends to ignore me, likely waiting for her current song to finish. I sit on the edge of the bed and wait for her. I know this game – I’ve become the master. There is no interrupting D
ylan and her love for music.
She sits up, her eyes gleaming. I know this look – she’s up to something. She pulls out her ear buds. “Guess what I won?” she asks. I’m never going to guess so I shrug. Dylan wins everything even though her parents give her any
thing she wants.
“Aren’t you going to guess?”
“No, you’re going to tell me anyway,” I reply. I scoot back on my bed, crossing my ankles. Dylan moves closer, matching the way I’m sitting. Her long, tan legs are pressed against mine and I don’t like it; it’s too hot to be touching anyone. I shift slightly, only for her to put her hand on my leg.
“I won tickets to the Hadley Carter concert and not just any tickets, but backstage passes and a meet and greet.”
“Cool, but who is Hadley Carter?” Dylan knows I’m not up-to-date on the music scene. I don’t have a fancy music player like she does or even a computer where I know she gets most of her music. Sure we listen to music in her car, but I try not to get attached to something I can’t have. It’s the devil’s music, or so my mom says. Unless the band is on public access television, it’s not allowed.
Dylan turns her body so she’s facing me. I can tell that she’s excited about these tickets she’s won. “Hadley is like the biggest music star out there right now and she’
s coming to town. Well not here, but to Jackson and I’ve got us tickets!”
“Of course us! Who else would I want to go with?”
know, D, Rachel, Sarah, or Jill. I’m sure they’d all want to go with you. I don’t. Hell, even the new guy that moved here last week. I saw him watching you the other day when you were at Stan’s. I think he drooled on his burger when you bent over.” Dylan hits me in the arm. I act like it hurt, but it didn’t. She’s too tiny to cause much damage. “Come on, I don’t know any of this singer’s music. I’ll be bored.”
Dylan sticks out her bottom lip and bats her eyes slowly. “Please, Ryan. It'll be a great night and I want to spend it with you. You’re my best friend and this is
a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re the one I want to share it with.”
When she gets like this I can’t say no. Even if I tried, she’d find a way to make me feel guilty and remind me of something she did for me or tell her I owe her a favor and that she’s collecting now. I’m in a no-win situation with her
and I know it.