First Time Lucky(9)

By: Chance Carter

I waved my free hand dismissively. “Just stupid stuff that doesn’t belong here. This place is already amazing and I don’t want to ruin it with my angsty teenage drama.”

“What angsty teenage drama do you have, Dallas Keane? You seem like the most carefree girl I know.”

A smile took over my face, and I looked down shyly. “I was just wondering what Sasha would say if she knew I were here. She thinks you’re bad news.”

“Maybe she’s right.”

I looked up at him with a flat expression. There was a twinkle of humor in his eyes that made me nearly swoon.

“If you’re such bad news, why does it seem like all you do is go to school and work at my dad’s shop?”

“That’s not all I do,” he defended. “Jake and I play video games at his parent’s store sometimes.” He grinned. “I’m merciless at Street Fighter.”

I laughed at the mental image of Shane and nerdy Jake Rowland playing video games together. They were an unusual pairing if I’d ever seen one, and I liked that about Shane. He didn’t care about image. Jake was a lovely guy but yet another person in whom Sasha would find something nasty to harp on.

I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and spread my wings in the world. I could find new friends, ones who didn’t look down on everybody and everything that didn’t fit into their idea of how the world should be. New friends like Shane. Except it was more evident by the second that friendship was not what I craved from the brooding bad boy.

“Yeah, a real rebel without a cause.” I rolled my eyes playfully. “I should watch my back around you.”

Shane laughed, exposing a set of perfectly straight teeth. He looked boyish when he laughed, like a mischievous kid who just got away with the perfect prank.

I noticed the trees thinning up ahead and peered through the foliage. “Is this it?” I asked.

Shane nodded and pulled me along beside him as he picked up the pace. “I come here when I need to think,” he said, suddenly sober. “Or just when I need to be alone.”

We stepped through the last of the trees and into a verdant green meadow. The sunlight hit me full force, warming my cheeks and making my whole body feel like it was glowing. I smiled and turned my face up to it, basking in the warmth for a moment as Shane walked me further along.

“It’s beautiful.” I snapped my eyes back open and took in the long grass, the pink and white flowers bustling up from their long winter’s sleep, and the lavender swaying in the light breeze.

“It’s nice like this, but I prefer it in the winter.” Shane led me over to a log. The grass was shorter in front of it. Worn down, I realized. He must’ve sat here a lot.

“What’s it like in the winter?”

He sat, guiding me down next to him as he considered my question.

“Lonely,” he said finally. “It’s quiet. Everything’s cold and wet, and it seems miserable, but when you sit in it for long enough, it feels like you’re a part of something ancient and wild.” He laughed and ran a hand through his hair. “Does that sound totally deranged?”

I shook my head. “No! Not at all. I think about that sometimes when I’m at the beach. The waves have been turning over and over for millions of years, and sitting there with the salt spray in your nose feels like tapping into that.”

Shane’s eyes warmed, his lips quirking into a little smile. “You’re something else, Dallas. You really are.”

I was bashful all of the sudden and glanced down at my jeans to hide the red that was surely rising from my neck. I knew very little about Shane and figured now was as good a time to ask as any.

“You live out in Greenridge, right?” I asked, meeting his eyes again.

“Sure do.”

“With your mom?”

Something flitted across his face. “Yeah, just my mom.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, where’s your dad?”

“I don’t mind you asking at all,” he said. “There just isn’t much to tell. The asshole left before I was born and neither mom or I have heard anything about him since then. Good riddance, as far as I’m concerned. Mom’s done an amazing job raising me on her own. She put herself through school and started working as a nurse a few years ago. She’s got a bit of debt to pay down, but we’re finally at the point where we’re doing alright. It was tight for a few years, but she got us through it. We didn’t need that bastard.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “That must’ve been hard.”

He shrugged. “Nothing’s easy in this life, but at least growing up the way I did allowed me to bond with my mom. We were like two soldiers in the trenches together at times, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”