First Time Lucky(10)

By: Chance Carter

“You seem to have a positive way of looking at everything,” I noted.

He chuckled. “Yeah, that’s something I get from my mom too. She’s always looking on the bright side, always striving to be better. I admire her.”

I didn’t mean for it to show on my face, but a wave of jealousy hit me out of nowhere, smack dab in the chest. My face fell, and Shane noticed.

“Hey,” he said quietly, tipping my chin up to search my eyes. “What’s the matter?”

His eyes were as green as the meadow, with beautiful flecks of gold. An instant calm settled over me.

“I’m sorry. I just...” I sighed. “I miss my mom a lot. My dad hasn’t been the same since she died and sometimes it feels like I lost both of them in one fell swoop.”

Shane’s thumb stroked my cheek, and I leaned into the touch.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I remember when that happened. Was it two years ago now?”

I nodded. “About then. Cancer’s a bitch.”

His hand dropped to clasp mine, and he squeezed. “I didn’t know your dad before. Was he that different?”

“Sometimes he’s his old self,” I said. “But often he’s just really out of it. He took it very hard and refused to come to me for comfort, as if he felt he was letting me down if he needed to lean on me even a little bit. That ended up just making me feel lonely, and I think it stunted his recovery to the point where he only seems just now to be coming out of it.”

“But at least he’s coming out of it.”

“That’s true.” I shrugged. “I still worry about him though. He forgets things, and he’s impulsive. He came home with a ride-on lawnmower not long ago, said he was going to fix it and sell it and never did. It’s still rusting in our backyard, but as far as he’s concerned, it may as well not even exist. It’s like there are two different people in the driver’s seat but neither of them talk to each other. I don’t know if my mom used to be a moderating influence or if he’s just lost the plot.”

“I don’t think he’s lost the plot,” Shane assured me. “I’ll be honest. It seems like there’s been something on his mind lately. Maybe you should ask him about it.”

The thought of asking my dad something like that was almost laughable. He never confided in me before, and he wasn’t about to start now. I decided to change the topic, curious to learn more about my companion.

“What do you want to do after high school?”

If Shane was caught off guard by my question, he didn’t show it. He smiled, though it was a pained smile, and said, “To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve been playing with the idea of joining up. I need a little direction in my life, and the military seems like the best place to get it. Plus I get to serve my country, which I’ve always found very appealing.”

“I like that,” I replied. “Much nobler than what I want.”

“And what do you want, Dallas?”

The honeyed drawl of his tone sent a shiver of pure pleasure down my spine. I added extra emphasis to my answer as a way of not showing how he affected me.

“To be a star!” I cried, flinging my arms wide. “I’ve had Broadway dreams since I was old enough to know what Broadway was. After I graduate, I’m going to save up like crazy and move to New York. Then I’m just going to hope I don’t fall flat on my face.”

“You’re going to do great.” Shane bumped his shoulder against mine. “If anybody can do it, you can.”

I snorted. “You don’t even know if I can sing.”

“You’re a smart girl. If you couldn’t sing you’d have figured it out by now.”

I looked up at him and smiled. He believed in me. I could see that he wasn’t just saying what I wanted to hear, and I loved that. I never talked about it in front of my other friends these days since Sasha was almost guaranteed to get snotty at even the mention of the B word. But Shane...Shane believed in me.

“It’s getting late,” he announced suddenly, slapping his hands on his thighs. “I should get you home before your dad sends out a search party.”

I laughed but allowed him to help me to my feet. “I doubt he’s even noticed we’re still gone.”

“Still,” he replied, “I gotta head home soon. My mom’s coming off a twelve-hour shift, and I want to have dinner waiting for her when she gets home.”

My heart nearly exploded. Shane was already heading back toward the road, and I trailed after him on a beam of pure rainbows. He didn’t seem to notice, and I doubted he thought anything of it, but that was the moment I knew for certain that he had a heart of gold.