Max's Redemption(8)

By: L. Wilder

“Or my dad after a two-week bender.” I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, and apparently my expression revealed my confusion. He cocked his head and smiled. “Too much?”

“Umm … Yeah. Maybe a little.” I laughed. “But I think you made your point.”

Just as we were starting for the door, Max said, “Harper?”

I stopped and turned to look at him. “Yeah.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about tomorrow. Just be you. The real you, and you’ll do great.” I felt my lips curl into a smile, and I was just about to say thank you when he knocked me back to reality. His finger motioned towards my chin as he tried to smother a laugh, “And the goiter should be gone in a couple of days.”

I gasped in horror. “Seriously?”

“Just keeping it real, Knucklehead,” he teased as he walked through the door and into the kitchen.

I stood there for a minute, angry and pouting, and without thinking, I brought my finger up to my chin and touched my blemish, feeling the hard, little mound under my skin. “Damn .”

“Stop touching it.” I quickly dropped my hand and turned to see Max standing at the door with a goofy smile on his face. “You’re only going to make it worse.”

“Shut up, Max!” I snapped as I charged for the door.

Knowing I was about to clobber him, he took off like a bolt of lightning. And just like that, the boy who held my heart in his hand reminded me that life was filled with ups and downs, and while mine wasn’t always easy, I had it pretty damn good. I had a family who loved me, a best friend who always had my back, and I had Max. What else could a girl ask for?



O ver the years, it had become a tradition for everyone to head out to the Point after a home football game. It was just far enough from town where the locals wouldn’t give us a hard time for being loud and unruly. The guys would set up a bonfire out on the beach, and everyone would spend the night partying by the fire. After another big win, Brody and I headed out to meet the others, and by the time we got there, the fire was blazing and the music was blaring. Brody had barely parked the car when Penny came rushing over. She was still wearing her cheerleading uniform, and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail with a bright, red bow. As soon as we got out of the car, she jumped into Brody’s arms and wrapped her own around his neck and her legs around his waist. “I thought you’d never get here. What took you so long?”

“I’m sorry, baby. I had to make a quick stop.” With Penny’s body still clinging to him like a fucking chimpanzee, he reached inside the car and pulled out a four-pack of wine coolers. “I thought you might want a few of these.”

“Oh my God!” she shrieked as she hopped down and took one of the drinks from the pack. “You are too good to me, Brody.”

“I do what I can.”

I grabbed a beer from the cooler, then followed Brody and Penny over to the fire. We hadn’t been standing there long when Alexa, Penny’s best friend, started walking in our direction. I took a long slug from my beer, trying to brace myself for her arrival. Alexa was a beautiful girl with large, perfect breasts and a tiny waist. Most guys would jump at the chance to hook up with the head cheerleader, but I had no interest in her.

She used her hand to flip her long, blonde hair over her shoulder as she batted her eyelashes and gave me her sexiest smile. “You played a great game tonight, Max.”

Even the sound of her voice got under my skin, making it difficult to hide my distaste for her. “Thanks, Alexa.”

“You’re the best one out there. I just love watching you play.”

“I’m far from the best, Alexa, but thanks anyway.”

“I think it’s sweet that you’re so humble about it. Most guys would be throwing it in everyone’s face how they’d scored three touchdowns in one game.”

“I didn’t do it by myself.”

As she continued to babble on and on, I took another drink of my beer and looked out into the crowd. Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of Alexa’s incessant yapping, I spotted Harper and Natalie standing a few yards away on the other side of the fire. They were talking back and forth, and I found myself staring at Harper as she laughed at something Natalie had said. I couldn’t help myself. I was stunned, unable to move or think, like I was caught up in a spell as I stood there watching her. I had no idea when or how it had happened, but she had changed. Harper was no longer the kid with scraped knees and pigtails who I teased and tormented on a daily basis. That kid had been replaced with a beautiful girl with dark hair that flowed down her shoulders, blue eyes that sparkled by the light of the fire, and a body that filled out her cheerleading uniform in a way that crowded my mind with thoughts I had no business thinking. She was Brody’s little sister. He was like a brother to me, but that didn’t stop me from heading in her direction.