Authors: C.J. Fallowfield
“You make it sound like you’re
some kind of sexual guru,” scoffed Josh as we walked three abreast, me in the
middle, flanked by the two bickering cousins. “You’ve been to first base with
two girls, who were both drunk at the time. Don’t make out like you’re some
Casanova with full knowledge of the Karma Sutra.”
I laughed as they scowled at each
other and continued to take snipes, and I slid my arm through each of theirs as
we made our way up the street. They eventually settled down and we walked to
the bus stop I’d need to use for college. They confirmed they’d likely take the
bus as well, since they couldn’t count on getting a lift with Nate every day. Apparently
he still lived at home, rather than on campus. It seemed the brothers’ mom was
an alcoholic and not fit to take care of herself, let alone the house and two
boys. So Nate and Josh shared duties, living mainly on fast food as their
cooking skills weren’t really up to par. It was nice to know Nate actually did
have some flaws. Regardless of my initial impressions of him, it seemed he
really was a decent guy, trying to be the man of his household. After pointing
out some of the less touristy shops, and the best small mall, we had a pit stop
for a burger and fries, then made our way to the arcade to blow off some steam
and get out of the heat.
“Seriously, do you ever get used
to it?” I moaned, pulling my tee away from my body and wafting it in the hope
of cooling myself down. The only effect it had was blowing more dry hot air
“Both born and bred here, fully
acclimatized,” Billy chuckled. “I thought San Francisco gets hot?”
“It does, but not
hot. I’m desperate for a drink, I feel like I’m melting. One bonus, I’ll lose
“You don’t need to lose any
weight, you’re perfect,” Josh stated, flashing me a sincere smile.
“Thanks.” I felt myself blush and
matched his pose, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. I had
the curse of Pops’ Mexican heritage, a pair of curvaceous hips, full breasts,
and what I considered to be a big backside. Yet another reason I didn’t hang
out with the in-crowd at high school. All those girls seemed to have come
straight out of a Barbie doll box. I could never hope to get a lovely figure
“I like a girl with a bit of meat
on her,” Billy agreed. “You’re not fat, just … shapely. Sexy curves. You don’t
see it putting off me or Josh, do you?”
“Or Nate,” Josh muttered quietly.
“Thanks, guys. To be honest, I’ve
always had a bit of a hang-up about my figure.”
“Way I look at it, if you were
buying some rib eye, you’d want as much as you could per dollar.”
“You’re comparing Sky to a piece
of steak?” Josh looked horrified and flashed me an apologetic glance, but I
laughed it off.
“A damn good bit of steak. Show
me a guy who’d turn down rib eye. It’s expensive, tender, juicy, succulent, and
you always want more.”
“Jesus, you’ll have to excuse him.
This is why he’s single, no tact at all.”
“I quite like the analogy,” I
shrugged. “Better than being ribs, all bony, messy, and … sticky.”
“Messy and sticky does it for me
too,” chuckled Billy, making Josh leave my side to tackle him. I laughed as
they playfully rough-housed.
When we hit the cool, dark, but
noisy arcade, Billy went to stake out the car racing booths, while Josh came
with me as I got us all a soda. I was having fun, it was like hanging out with
Liam, except I was aware that both of them were angling to ask me out. That was
why my relationship with Liam had come so easily. I knew I could be myself
around him, and there was no fear of him mistaking my friendliness for
something it wasn’t. I’d made it clear to Billy and Josh I wasn’t looking to
date though, so I hoped that would put an end to any aspirations they had, and
that we could all continue to hang out as friends, with no pressure.
“You’re pretty cool for a girl,
you know,” Josh murmured, as we headed over to where it looked like Billy had
paid off some young boys to vacate their seats.
“I’ve never really been into
stuff most girls are. My best friend back home … sorry, still getting used to
calling this home now, anyway, he’s a guy. I’ve always just found I get along with
them better. Most of the girls I did get to know in high school were too catty
and cared too much about their appearances and the latest fashion styles. Not
“You nervous about starting at
“No,” I replied with a shake of
my head. “I’m used to starting new schools and knowing nobody. This time I have
two new friends.”
“You do,” he confirmed with a
smile that gave me a warm glow inside. It was hard not to notice how attractive
he was, and I loved that he seemed so unaware of the fact as well. He’d make
some girl really happy one day. I just had a feeling that he was solid and
dependable, with a real caring and doting side.
“Come on, you two,” Billy
hollered. “I want to show Sky why I have the top score on here.”
“Soon to be second top score,” I
called back with a wink.
“Fighting talk, I’m up for that
challenge. Care to lay a wager on the outcome?”
“Sure, what do you suggest?” I
asked, as we grouped around the machines.
“I win and you have to go on a
date with me,” he grinned.
“I already told you I don’t date.
Besides, you won’t win, so I expect twenty bucks when you lose.” I cocked my
head as he narrowed his eyes, trying to size me up. He laughed and nodded,
stretching out a hand.
“Deal, but you’d better start
thinking about what outfit you’re going to wear, as I’ve got this in the bag.”
“He’s not lying, Sky. He ranks
number one, been there for years,” Josh warned.
“So did I back home. Game on,” I
nodded, grabbing Billy’s hand and shaking it before quickly ducking to slide
into the encased seat next to us. “Hand your wallet to Josh, Billy. I don’t
want to risk you running when it comes time to pay up.”
Billy laughed and did as he was
told, scooping out some coins before he walked around to climb into the booth
next to me. Josh crouched at my side, angling his head to look at the brightly
lit screen that straddled the two driver’s seats. I fed my money into the slot
and put one hand on the steering wheel, the other on my gearstick, then looked
over at Billy. He shook his head and did the same, before looking straight
ahead at our two cars on the track next to each other. Josh counted us down to
press the button for the checkered flag to wave us off. I slammed my foot on
the accelerator and tore through the gears as I focused on the track in front
of me, Josh whooping at my side as I shot into the lead. Billy tried to nose
his way up alongside me, but I blocked him and waited until the last moment to
cut left to take the first bend right on the edge of the track, forcing him to
“Holy crap, she’s not lying,
Billy,” Josh yelled excitedly. “She’s amazing!”
“Shut it, Josh,” Billy growled,
as I heard him grappling with his steering wheel next to me.
I blocked them both out and blew
out a calming breath. I couldn’t lose face after talking myself up, and I
didn’t want to go on a date. I swapped hands on the wheel when I hit a
straight, quickly wiping my palm on my jeans. Damn this heat, would I ever acclimatize?
I quickly swapped back and heard Billy curse when I blocked him and reached the
next bend before him. He veered out and went full throttle to run up alongside
me, the tip of his hood edging slightly in front, and he laughed with
exhilaration, but it was short lived as I gave him a gentle nudge and forced
him to go wide around the next corner, taking the lead again.
“I can’t believe you did that!”
“All’s fair in love and war. Don’t
tell me you never did that to anyone,” I replied, my eyes not leaving the
screen in front of me.
“She has a point, Billy. Just
because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she can’t play with the big dogs.”
We hit the last straight, with me
slightly in the lead, and I let the revs scream as I waited until the last
moment to ram the stick up through the gears and shot across the finish line a
good car length ahead of Billy. I grinned as I heard him curse, and Josh burst
“I believe you owe me twenty
bucks, Billy Hudson,” I stated as I twisted to face him.
“Where the hell did you learn to
drive like that?” he uttered, looking seriously pissed off. “I’ve spent years
in here and you just wrecked my top score and set a new record.”
“Can’t let you in on all of my
secrets, can I?” I teased.
“Best of three,” Billy shot back.
“Sure, but after I beat you again,
Josh gets to choose what we play next.”
“Pinball,” Josh stated, and I
rolled my eyes. Trust him to pick the one thing I wasn’t as good at. “I happen
to be known as the Pinball Wizard of Boulder City.”
“I was known as the Speed King of
Boulder City,” Billy scoffed, looking distraught as I keyed in my gaming handle
of SlayGirl98 to move him down the ranks.
“You’re still king, you’ve just
been beaten by the Speed Queen. Need a break before we line up again?”
“Need a break? Trust me, I can
play for hours and not even need to hit the head. My bladder is trained in the
art of gaming. I’m also known as ‘Bladder of Steel.’”
“Just how many superhero capes do
you own?” I giggled.
“It’s the tights you need to
worry about,” joked Josh, making me belly laugh at the thought of Billy wearing
“I’d rock them if I had any,” he
pouted. “Maisie Green reckoned I had the best legs on the football team.”
“Yeah, that was before she got
her vision corrected with glasses. Now she sees them for what they are, skinny chicken
“Better than your chunky rhino
thighs,” Billy shot back. “When you ran across the field, it triggered the
earthquake warning alarm.”
“Stop, stop,” I laughed. “Honestly,
you two are worse than women for the one-upmanship and biting. Are we playing
“Hang on a sec, Nate just texted
me,” Josh replied, looking down to check his phone. Just hearing Nate’s name
had my heart beat a little faster. I grabbed my drink and sipped my soda to
cool myself down. “He’s back, wants to know where we are.”
“He’s coming? Here?” I nearly
stuttered as I said it. I hadn’t counted on seeing Nate today. I hadn’t dressed
up, I had no makeup on again, and I was hanging out in an arcade that, by the
looks I was getting from the other occupants, had never seen a woman since it
had opened. It wasn’t exactly the way I’d hoped to see him again. Not that I’d
planned on seeing him again. Hell, who was I kidding? I’d spent all week trying
to think of excuses to take my bike back to his garage with the very intention
of seeing him again.
“Yeah, he was the one who used to
bring us down here to blow off steam, rather than going out fighting like other
boys our age were doing.”
“Enough about Nate. Are we
playing or what?” Billy asked, the sound of his quarters clinking as they
dropped into the machine.
“Playing,” I confirmed,
swallowing the ball of anxiety in my throat. The thought of seeing Nate again
both terrified and excited me at the same time, and I was completely unfocussed
as we ripped around the track. I let Billy beat me off the starting line, then
cut me up as I tried to undertake him on the corners. I slumped back in the
seat as he whooped with excitement to have beaten me, his joy only slightly
muted to see he still hadn’t beaten my time from the first game.
“Tell me that you winning wasn’t
a fluke first time?” Josh whispered. “I’ll never hear the end of it if he wins
and gets to take you out.”
“No fluke, I just … my head was
somewhere else. Won’t happen again.” I flashed him a smile as I pulled myself
“Good, because … I don’t want you
to go out with him because of a dare. If you go out with someone, it should be
because you want to, because you can’t stop thinking about them, because your
heart races at the thought of seeing them, and spending time with them makes
everything in the world seem right for the first time in your life.”
“Josh, that’s …” I shook my head.
I didn’t have any better words to sum up what I thought a relationship should
be like, he’d said them already. That was why I was single. I’d never met that
guy, but right now, with our gazes locked, his cheeks coloring up in that
adorable way they did, I felt a weird sense that Josh could possibly be that
guy for me.
“Come on, I’m waiting.”
Billy’s interruption broke our
moment and I settled back into my seat after feeding the machine, then gripped
the steering wheel. Josh was right, I didn’t want to go on a date unless I was
ready for it. Maybe if it had been Josh I might have been, or Nate, but Billy?
There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on with him, funny as he
was. I couldn’t see myself dating someone I wasn’t sure of. I let out a
What the hell was I doing thinking about dating?
wasn’t in my life plan at the moment anyway. Josh counted us in and Billy and I
tore off from the starting line, Josh yelling encouragement in my ear each time
Billy took the lead, forcing me to pull out all the stops to claw it back. The
noise of cheering and cursing as I just edged over the finish line in pole
position, in what would have been a photo finish, was deafening.