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    Krista
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The Best Year - 12. Chapter 12

The ride home from practice was completely quiet. The only sound inside of the car was of our breathing. I was so conscious of him sitting a few inches away from me in the passenger seat. As the silence got the better of me, I stretched my hand across the hand rest that divided us, I looked straight ahead, holding my breath. When I felt his hand tentatively slide over mine, I relaxed and fought the urge to jerk my hand away.

It had been like that since we kissed. Part of me wanted to run and hide. Wanted to think about and try to understand how something like kissing Luke could happen. It wasn’t something I had ever found myself imagining. I never fantasized about it, never wanted it. Not until it happened and then something inside of me wanted to kiss him back. The fear in his eyes tugged at me in a way that no one else ever could have. He had put himself out there and I had taken that leap with him. I just didn’t know why.

Hugging him was more for me than it was him. I could feel him wanting to run and hide as well. He knew he was stranded there with me unless he wanted to walk. I didn’t want to let go; I felt the warmth of him. Being so close I was expecting to smell some lingering scent of shampoo, his deodorant, possibly some sweat, but all I could detect was the chlorine that I had grown accustomed to. Touching him, I could feel the smooth muscles of his back. He was stronger, harder than I was used to. I was just a few centimeters taller than him; it was a marked difference than Ally, who barely came to my collar bone. The hug seemed to keep us both upright and still. It was our crutch and our courage.

All of that left the closer I got to his house, especially when he slid his hand from mine with a small smile. He had muttered a quick goodnight and an equally difficult to hear ‘see you tomorrow,’ before he slid out of the car. I wanted to kill the engine and run after him, but the movement by the front window stopped me. I saw Cindy looking out of the window after moving the curtains aside. She didn’t look happy to see me in the driveway and for the first time I didn’t want to spite her or push her buttons. I wanted to get the hell out of their driveway and back home to a hopefully empty house.

I didn’t sleep much that night. I couldn’t get my mind to relax and forget the kiss. Every time I closed my eyes, I seemed to replay the moment before he closed his eyes. That is when I knew he was going to kiss me and that I was going to let him. Although at the time it was still too different, too new. Luke looking like I had already punched him after not returning the kiss only made me want to kiss him again, I wanted him to know that I was okay. I just didn’t know if I was now that I was alone in the house waiting for dawn.

Then there was the problem with having to see him tomorrow at the park. Not having all of my thoughts quelled and thousands more coming as I tossed and turned. I wondered if it would show on our faces. That something had happened, something that was big, and that we didn’t exactly know if it was bad or good. I wondered if we would give ourselves away with one look. I imagined Luke lying in bed freaking out, maybe he wouldn’t even show up tomorrow. He’d make some excuse to stay at home. For some reason, the thought of not seeing him tomorrow bothered me more.

I didn’t know when I fell asleep, but I was instantly awake when Mom knocked on my bedroom door and told me to get up. I glanced over, wide-eyed and noticed that she was dressed in a dress she liked to wear to church. I could smell her perfume and when she smiled, I gave her a weak smirk and sat up not wanting to look her in the eyes.

“You’re wide awake,” she said as she put the back on one of her earrings. When she smoothed out her red hair and really looked at me I glanced down to my lap.

“Yeah I was already awake,” I lied faking a yawn. “Is Dad up?”

“Just went to bed,” she said sighing. “He doesn’t have to work as hard the next few weeks, so maybe you’ll see us around more.”

“Are you off to church?” I asked and she studied me for a moment.

“Are you okay?” She asked her eyes creasing at the corners.

“Yeah, why?” I asked shrugging as I stood and stretched.

“You seem wired, you didn’t get into anything last night, right?” She asked, but she didn’t sound like she was accusing me of anything. That she believed that I had come straight home after practice.

“No, Rick hasn’t been happy with some of the times I’ve been putting in,” I answered hoping a smaller worry would ease her mind a little. “He’s afraid if I keep falling off the college will take away my scholarships.”

“Oh, honey,” Mom said and I heard the clicking of her heels against the hardwood as she walked towards me. She wrapped me into a hug and I felt her kiss my cheek. “You’ll get that sorted out, you know how Rick gets.”

“Yeah,” I answered laughing and although I would never admit it, Mom hugging me took a lot of the butterflies away. I no longer felt like I was about to jump off a cliff, for the first time since the kiss I felt grounded.

“You’re just overdoing everything,” Mom said as she broke the hug, but she kept her arms on my shoulders ready to hug me again if she thought I needed another one. “I know the park is something I’ve pushed you with, but that won’t last forever. You’ll be fine.”

“Thanks,” I offered, and she smiled as she let go.

“Well I better get going or I’ll be late,” she said smiling. “Hopefully, there won’t be any more emergencies at the factory, do you think Luke would stop by for dinner?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered shrugging.

“Don’t worry about Cindy,” Mom countered her eyes creasing again as she guessed at the reason for my stammering. “She can’t keep that boy locked up forever. Do you think Toby or Derek might be free for dinner?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, and she sighed.

“I guess not,” she said sighing. “You make it so hard to keep you grounded.”

“Does that mean I’m free?” I asked smirking when her smile faltered. I already knew the answer, I had definitely earned this punishment and this time I would be seeing it through. They won’t be backing down now, the park looked to be mostly finished anyway.

“No,” she answered her smile returning. “Now get your butt in the shower.”

“Fine,” I sighed, and she laughed patting me on the shoulder as we both left my bedroom.

After my shower, I walked into my bedroom and closed the door behind me. Not paying attention to anything, I dropped my towel on the bed and walked around to my closet. That is when I heard laughing coming from behind the closed closet door. A closet door that I never kept shut, mostly because I usually had shoes and shit spilling out of it and blocking the doorway.

Jumping I grabbed the door handle, covering myself as best I could with my other hand. When the door opened Derek and Toby nearly fell over my shit as they burst out of the closet. Walking back around the foot of my bed, I quickly wrapped my towel around my waist as they laughed.

“What the fuck?” I asked shaking my head. The noise they made, likely would have got Dad’s attention if he wasn’t sleeping through another long week of work.

“We’re here to kidnap you,” Derek answered, “now get your ass dressed.”

“Yeah we already saw too much of your little tadpole,” Toby added, and I heard both snickering as I walked around them to my dresser.

“We’re going swimming,” Derek said, and I sighed shoving a pair of boxer briefs back into my dresser and shoved that drawer closed.

“I have to work,” I countered glancing over my shoulder at them. “So, get lost, losers.”

“Not a chance,” Derek argued as I dropped the towel, not caring that they were in the room now. We had saw one another naked enough times for it not to feel completely weird.

“I’m trying not to get my ass into anymore trouble to get the parents off it for awhile,” I said as I pulled on a pair of blue and light grey checkered swimming trunks.

“Toby, when did our best friend turn into a loser?” Derek asked turning to Toby. They both smirked and I sighed shouldering past them to step inside my closet. I dug around until I found a pair of flip-flops and my sunglasses then I kicked every stray shoe or old swimming trophy back into the closet that had spilled out, but I quickly gave up shrugging my shoulders.

“I think he might have a girl waiting to sin behind the bushes,” Toby answered, and despite being pissed off at having them in my bedroom, I laughed shaking my head. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to talk them out of leaving without me. That I would have to let them kidnap me and take me wherever they were planning on going.

Following them out of the bedroom and down the stairs, I grabbed my keys on the way outside. The sun was already bright, the air sticky and humid. Working on the park would be hell in this weather, it wouldn’t take long for me to be worn out and drenched in sweat. I knew I was overworking my body, that I was showing up to practices too exhausted to put in an honest effort. Of all the days though, I wanted to go in and work. I needed to see how Luke was fairing this morning, I still wasn’t convinced that we’d hide it well though. That it wouldn’t show on our faces or how we interacted throughout the day. Cindy was sharp-eyed and critical, if anyone could see through us, it would be her. I wouldn’t mind thinking I was a bad influence or a punk ass, she already knew that. But I didn’t want her looking at us and think something else might have happened. That something had changed.

As I watched Derek back out of the driveway in his bulky black truck, with too large tires, I realized I could drive to the park. I almost did when he drove off into the direction of town, but I didn’t know how determined they were, and I didn’t want them crashing in on me at the park to really kidnap me. So, I sighed, accepting whatever punishment I was going to get and followed him.

Driving past the park, I knew it would be empty. Most people that volunteered to work on it, would still be at morning church services. I wasn’t surprised to see a front-end loader sitting out beside the swing set poles. I knew if anyone could get one there in short notice it would be Henry, he seemed excited enough about the idea anyway. The only truck in the parking lot was a large flatbed truck, likely the one that delivered the front-end loader.

We arrived at our usual tubing spot. There was a hiking trail that led to a small waterfall that fed the river. Toby’s truck would likely be parked at a trail downstream to pick us up after we drifted down the river for awhile. It was something we did often in the summer after the water levels lowered a little and the small sections of rapids calmed.

“You’re quiet,” Toby said as he led the way down the trail.

“He looks funny, too,” Derek added, “Doesn’t he?”

“No gayer than usual,” Toby answered as I sped up my pace to walk beside Derek.

“Fuck you,” I countered shoving Toby’s shoulder. He laughed as he easily regained his balance as we turned a corner in the trail, and I heard the rush of the waterfall. As we came into view the girls were all laying on the bank on towels, all of them in brightly colored bikinis. Seeing Ally lying there made my stomach drop, she was lying on her stomach listening to Heather animatedly gossiping about somebody. I knew there was a good chance she would be there, but I hadn’t thought about her and the kiss.

“We’re back,” Derek said, and I laughed when all three screamed. It was impossible to hear anyone approaching the waterfall.

“Ass,” Ally yelled as she pulled her sunglasses up into her hair pulling some strands out of her face. Her pink bikini didn’t leave anything to the imagination, and I knew Welker didn’t know anything about it or he wouldn’t have let her out of the house. Seeing me she stood and quickly wiped away any stray dirt or sand that was on her legs before she bounced up to where I stood.

“Hey,” I grunted as she slammed into me. Her usual sweet smell of strawberries was mixed with a strong cocoa scent. If we had bears here, they would have already swarmed us. Instead of feeling calm though, I broke the hug and let her study me. When her smile never faded, I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

“It was my idea to kidnap you,” she said smiling as she grabbed my hand.

I looked around the clearing and saw the tubes already blown up and stacked on the beach. There was a small cooler attached to a tow rope on the bottom one. It would be filled with beer, the usual drink for us as we drifted down river. It had make-shift floating devices on it, an invention from Toby’s Dad back when he also drifted down this same river when he was younger with his friends. I don’t think it was something Mom or Dad ever did growing up though.

“She has about drove us all crazy,” Heather added as she walked by us to where the floats were waiting. “Jackson this, Jackson that, I wish Jackson were here.”

“Shut up,” Ally countered offering me a smile.

“You guys probably won’t see me much after today,” I said forcing a smile when Ally frowned. I tried to reassure her, but I knew Mom would be disappointed. I just hoped that my absence didn’t hurt Luke’s chances at convincing Cindy to allow him to come to our school. Even if that meant that I would have to be around him more.

“Is someone worried what his momma is going to do next?” Toby asked as he playfully shoved me on the shoulder as he walked past. “Don’t tell me you want to be at the park right now, not after you’ve seen all this.”

“I don’t,” I countered frowning. They were all looking at me and for the first time they made me feel like a loser. They didn’t know that part of me wanted to turn around and leave, at least I didn’t think they did.

“Then let’s get into the water,” Toby responded, and I shrugged when Ally smiled, and I followed her to the tubes. I picked one of the larger ones without the closed in rubber bottom. I knew those were for the girls, they never really wanted to get wet when we drifted down the river. They just wanted to show off their new bikinis, which was fine by us. At least they didn’t complain about bugs or the heat, or the desire to be at a mall somewhere like most of the other girls at school.

After I settled into my tube and pushed off the bank and into the current I looked back at Ally. She slid into her tube and I started paddling my hands against the slight current to wait for her. I smiled when she drifted into me and I reached out my hand to take hers. Holding her hand and looking around at everyone else linked together, so that we could talk and pass drinks whenever we wanted them. I felt normal again, that I was where I belonged. I allowed myself to relax now that I wasn’t standing face to face with any of them. They weren’t paying close attention to me, so I didn’t worry about them finding out that I had more on my mind than just finishing my park project so that I could be free. That maybe part of me wanted for it to go on a little bit longer so that I could have an excuse to talk to Luke and not have people wondering why I was. Odds were against him ever coming to my school, Cindy seemed pretty fucking stubborn and I doubted even Henry’s calm persistence would sway her.

“I really have missed you,” Ally said, and I pulled her around until she was floating beside me. Here on the river, the trees that surrounded it gave us shade and privacy. It dampened the sound of the cars on the highway and the noise of people. It was peaceful, even with Toby and Derek trying to dump one another and Heather cursing both of them for getting her hair wet.

Instead of looking at her, I smiled and closed my eyes. I gave her hand a gentle squeeze and I felt her thumb rub the back of my hand. It was softer than Luke’s hands, smaller. The fact that I was comparing them made me flush and my heart race. I was at least calmed by the idea that I at least like Ally’s hand better. That being around her was easier.

“I’m glad I got to do this before it started getting too cold,” I said breaking the comfortable silence between us.

“I wish you were finished with that stupid park,” Ally said and I opened one eye and glanced at her. I smiled when I saw her pouting and looking up at the canopy of trees overhead.

“We’re almost done,” I responded, and I watched her readjust on her tube, her bikini top nearly coming untied around the back of her neck. She slid her hand from mine, and I watched unabashed as she retied it smiling at me.

“Ally what are you doing?” Toby asked and I turned to see him sitting up in the tube watching us. “You’ll give the guy a heart attack, go easy on him he’s been with those stuffy church women.”

“Shut up Toby,” I groaned kicking water towards him.

“How many have you bedded now?” He asked dodging the water I splashed at him.

“Those jokes are getting old,” Ally countered reaching out her hand for me again. When I took it she smiled and settled back in. “I wish these things were big enough for both of us.”

“That one probably is,” I said as I watched Toby and the rest of them hit the first bit of rapids and momentarily speed away from the two of us. They weren’t really what I would call rapids, but they were fun enough to break up the calmness of the river in short bursts.

“Want to try it?” She asked looking down at her float.

“It’s too hot,” I answered pretending to close my eyes and shove my shades back over them to block out the sun.

“What else do you guys have to do to finish the park?” She asked and I sighed. I didn’t want to think about the park. Whenever someone brought it up, all I was able to think about was the kiss and I only played along with the kidnapping to forget about it. At least until I was calm enough to figure out my next move. I have never been like this, I usually just did whatever popped into my head at the time. That is what got me into this mess in the first place. Maybe if I had thought before kissing Luke, I wouldn’t have. I would have thought about what it would have meant if I did before I did it. What it would do to me if people found out. What Ally and everyone else would think. If I were thinking that night, I would have let him run, but I wasn’t thinking past the way his lips felt on mine and that I wanted to feel them on my lips again.

“Don’t know,” I answered shrugging my shoulders. “They’re working on the swing sets today, they might do the baseball fields too.”

“Sounds boring,” she said offering me a smile.

“Yeah, boring,” I added squeezing her hand.

“Y’all want a beer?” Derek yelled and I looked down stream to see that they had managed to put quite a bit of space between us.

“Yeah,” I answered shaking my head. I let go of Ally’s hand and she grabbed hold of my tube and I paddled into the center of the river where the current downstream was strongest. When we collided with him he passed me both beers. I handed one to Ally and carefully opened my can. I watched her tap on the metal tab a few times before she slowly opened her own. Drinking the bitter, cold drink, was at least refreshing.

“I didn’t think the old man at the store was going to accept my fake I.D. this time,” Derek said as he retrieved a second beer for him and shoved the lid of the cooler closed.

“Getting too fat to pull it off,” Toby commented as he kicked out and hit Derek’s float. It sent him and Lily spiraling towards the bank.

“Hey!” Lily yelled looking over her shoulder. She had been reading and holding on to one of Derek’s hands only letting go momentarily to turn the pages. When I looked at the cover, I realized it was the book we were supposed to be reading for English class for our outside of class reading reports. I hadn’t started mine and they were due before the end of the winter semester in December. I planned on using online summaries so that I didn’t have to worry about it.

“I wish you’d put that damn book down and talk,” Derek countered splashing a little bit of water at Lily.

“I got this from the library, ass,” she hissed wiping the cover on her bikini. It was a dark blue with silver rings holding the fabric together between her breasts and on the side of each hip. Out of all the girls she was the least covered.

“Oh, I’m an ass now?” Derek asked smiling as he grabbed hold of Lily’s float and pretended to attempt to dump her into the river.

“Yes!” She shrieked dropping the book into her lap. She used both her hands to splash him and she only stopped when they drifted too far apart for her to reach him.

“He does kind of look like one,” I joked, “maybe that’s why you just about got caught with a fake I.D at the store.”

“Go thump a bible,” Derek countered splashing water at me. When it hit both me and Ally, I heard Ally hiss and when I turned to look at her, she had sat up on her elbows and was glaring at him.

“I’ll show you,” I said, and I slid my hand out of Ally’s and slid off my tube. The river water was four feet deep or so throughout most of it. There were some deep pools over our heads, but we rarely swam in the river. As I took a breath, I saw Derek scrambling to start paddling away.

“Don’t go under!” Ally yelled, but I smiled and dived under the water. It was murky and I could only see a foot or so in front of me despite not having an goggles on. Fish darted away from me as I focused in on the sound of Derek’s splashing and took off swimming. I could only hold my breath for a minute or two swimming this hard and I was about to come up for air when I finally saw the cooler towing behind his float. It had broken away from the group and I pushed forward until I could reach out and grab Derek’s hand as he paddled. When I did I heard a scream before I pulled him into the water with me.

When I came up for air, I rubbed my eyes free of the river water and looked around. Derek had already broken the surface and was glaring at me as he caught up to his float and tried to scramble back onto it.

“You’re like a fucking shark,” he hissed wiping his face.

“You could have hit your head on something under there,” Ally yelled as she struggled to paddle with one hand as she towed my float with her other. When she finally caught up to me I slid back onto mine and laid back. The water wasn’t really warm, but it felt good against the harshness of the summer sun and the humid air. I really didn’t know how the girls stood it floating around on floats that never allowed them to touch the water.

“It’s pretty clear,” I countered smiling. “Y’all should try it.”

“No thanks,” she said wrinkling her nose. “Now you smell like the bottom of the river.”

“Does that mean you’re not going to kiss me later?” I asked folding my free hand under my head. It was then I realized that I had lost my shades and I began looking around.

“Yes,” Ally answered then reached beside her and I relaxed when I saw that she had my sunglasses in her hands and was cleaning the lenses by lifting up on the underside of her bikini top. I cocked an eyebrow when I noticed some of her boob slipping out as she did it. “Of course, I’ll kiss you.”

“Good,” I muttered swallowing. “Fuck I’ve lost my beer.”

“You can have mine,” she said as she held out her hand with my sunglasses. I took them from her and slipped them over my eyes as I watched her readjust her top before she reached over to the cup holder on her float and took a drink of her beer before handing it to me to finish.

“I wouldn’t give him your beer, Ally,” Derek said still pretending to be pissed at me. “That’s what the loser gets for drowning my ass.”

“Serves you right,” Lily countered shaking her head. She had gone back to reading, but she winked over the top of the book at Derek.

“Do you guys hear that?” Toby asked and I looked over at him and Heather. She looked to have fallen asleep in her float. There was a hornet inspecting the top of her can of beer, I knew that if she was awake, she likely would have bailed out of there.

“Hear what?” Lily asked closing her book. “It’s not an animal is it? A snake?”

“How do snakes sound, Lily?” Heather mumbled then reached for her beer until she noticed the hornet had landed on it.

“We’re getting close to the park,” Toby said ignoring Lily. “Can’t you hear them losers working?”

“Toby,” Heather hissed, “Toby, get this thing away from me.”

“Get what away from you?” Toby asked still sitting up to listen.

“The hornet, dumbass,” Heather countered as I turned my head to listen for any sounds of them working at the park. I could just barely make out the sound of what had to be the front-end loader. Toby finally turned his head away from the noise as Heather started backing up against her float. It threatened to tip over, but Toby splashed water towards the can and the hornet flew away.

“Losers,” Derek said shaking his head. “Only dumbasses would be out doing shit like that on a day like this.”

“Yeah,” I offered sighing when the noise from the park got louder as we curved around it. The car would be parked not far past the park. I probably missed the only truly fun day of work there, watching Henry attempt to work heavy machinery. He seemed excited about it, but he didn’t look like the type that would know how to use a front-end loader. The thought of laughing with Luke as we watched as Henry ground the gears and bounced around in the seat made me smirk.

“What?” Ally asked and I turned to see her studying me.

“Nothing,” I answered squeezing her hand gently. “Just enjoying the day.”

“Good,” she said and we all settled in to drift the rest of the way down the river.

A little while later Derek told us that we had arrived at the trail that led to the cars. The guys jumped off their floats and pulled the girls to the banks so that they could get out of their floats and stay dry. I helped Derek haul the cooler, still full of beer, out of the river. Then we dried off with the girl’s towels before we packed up everything and started down the trial. Slower this time since we were all barefoot after we left our shoes in the cars back at the waterfall trail.

After we stepped out onto the gravel parking area at the entrance of the trail and Toby walked over to where he hid the keys to his truck. I watched Toby reach up and under the front fender and fished them out before I let the tailgate drop and we shoved the cooler into the back. Then I helped the girls climb up. We handed them the floats and they started letting the air out of them as I climbed into the back of the truck with them and Derek got into the passenger side.

“Come with us to get something to eat,” Ally said as she held the nozzle open for the air to escape. Her float was rapidly deflating as Toby started the truck and backed out of the gravel and into the road towards town and where we left the other cars.

“I better get on home,” I said sighing. “Mom probably has already heard about me ditching out on work.”

“Then you’re already in trouble,” Ally countered, but she frowned. “I guess we should have let you go on into work.”

“I had fun,” I offered smiling. “I should have snuck out on them once or twice already.”

“So, you’ll come and eat?” Ally asked and I smiled and nodded my head. She made a good point, I would be in trouble anyway, I might as well eat first.

We ended up pulling into the drive thru of McDonalds before we retrieved the other vehicles. Toby paid for the food we got, and we all ate on the way to get the cars. It didn’t take us long to get back to the trail, it wasn’t too far down river, but we had wasted a good chunk of the day not going anywhere. It was how things were supposed to be here during the waning summer. Especially during my senior year. I was supposed to relax and count the days down before graduation and worry about missing my friends. I wasn’t supposed to kiss Luke and have that fuck everything up. I couldn’t shake it off though, as hard as I tried all day the kiss stayed with me.

“See y’all later,” I said after Toby killed the engine. He parked beside my car and I leaned over and kissed Ally, tasting salt and 7Up. She smiled and pulled me back in for another kiss and we both laughed when we fell over the floats onto the bed of the truck.

“Get a room, slut,” Heather said, and I looked up to see her smiling and shaking her head.

“Don’t look, pervert,” I countered as I did a push up and then helped Ally up. Then I jumped over the side of the truck and gave them all a quick wave before I opened the door to my car and slid into the driver’s side. I was still damp from the river water and now that I was away from the river, I noticed how much I did smell like the water.

I waved at them before I sped away towards home. I didn’t look to see if people were still working as I passed the park on my way. I didn’t want the off chance of seeing Luke to deter me from the ass chewing I was sure to get when I got home. Mom didn’t say anything about emergencies at her job, so she would have settled in for a relaxing Sunday. The thought of her nearly ungrounding me this morning did make me slow down just a little bit as I left town and headed home.

When I arrived, I parked beside Mom’s car and by the time I was out of the car and headed towards the front steps, she had opened the door and was standing on the porch with her arms crossed.

“I’m sorry,” I offered when I reached the bottom stair. “They showed up here and surprised me, I didn’t want to go with them.”

“Then why did you?” She asked letting her hands fall to her sides. “Just when I thought you were turning the corner; I was going to invite them to dinner tonight.”

“Dinner?” I asked frowning. “I already ate.”

“Of course you have,” she said turning around to open the door. She held it open for me and I reluctantly walked up the stairs and into the living room. Now that I was inside, I could smell the food cooking in the kitchen.

“I do feel bad,” I countered as I turned back around to face her. “I argued with them to just let me go in, but Toby rode with me and…”

“You make your own decisions, Jackson,” Mom interrupted holding up her hand to stop me from talking. “You know this doesn’t help Luke’s cause either, right?”

“What does that have to do with me?” I asked crossing my arms. The air conditioning against my damp clothes made me shiver, even if it was a welcomed change from the heat outside.

“You’re the example, Jack,” she answered putting her hand on her hip. “You’re the person that will either convince Cindy it is a good or bad idea to send him to school, we already talked about this.”

“Then her mind is already made up, right?” I asked crossing my arms. “She already doesn’t like me, I bet she was happy as shit that I didn’t show up today.”

“Language young man,” Mom hissed shaking her head.

“Sorry,” I mumbled reaching up to scratch the back of my head.

“Sorry is right,” Mom countered, and I saw her eyes brighten. “That’s exactly what you’re going to do.”

“Excuse me?” I asked as she reached up and grabbed hold of my ear before I could react.

“Get out to the car,” She ordered as she opened the front door. When I hesitated, she tugged on my ear and I grimaced and followed her out onto the porch. After she saw that I wasn’t going to argue she let go and I walked around to the passenger side rubbing my ear as my face began to flush.

“Have you completely lost it?” I asked after I buckled my seat belt.

She didn’t say anything as she backed out of the driveway and sped off down the road. Now that we were in the car, I could smell the dirty river water on me and I wanted to take a shower. I didn’t dare look over at her or try to weasel out of whatever was going through her head. She had her shoulders squared, both hands on the wheel. It would take an act of God to get her ass to turn around now and I definitely wasn’t him.

When we arrived at the park, people were still milling around. I sank down into the passenger seat when I noticed that Cindy, Henry, and Luke were in the middle of a small group. They were all smiling and talking. Henry pointed out randomly, probably replaying everything that happened during the rebuild. I had to admit that the park looked nice, they had completely mowed and raked the baseball fields.

I bit the back of my bottom lip when Mom honked her horn. I glanced over to see her eyeing me from one side, a smug smile on her face. It took everything I had to push back all the protests screaming in my head as she pulled in beside Henry’s truck, still piled high with trash from the last day’s cleaning.

“Out,” she ordered cocking her eyebrow when I hesitated. Fearing that she was about to haul my ass out of the car by the ear I unhooked my seatbelt and opened the door.

She quickly followed me out of the car. I closed my door and waited for her to walk around the front to where I stood. I didn’t want to look towards Henry and the group, I knew they had to be looking at us now, their conversations dropped. I slumped my shoulders when she grabbed hold of my elbow. I almost yanked it out of her grip, but I knew where she’d grab next and the elbow wasn’t half as bad.

“Hi there everyone,” Mom greeted, and I glanced up to see her smiling at the small crowd. “As you probably noticed, Jackson missed the final day of work.”

“Grace,” Henry said and I looked up to see that he had taken a step forward, but Cindy had grabbed hold of his elbow. On the other side of her, Luke was practically hiding behind her shoulder.

“Not now Henry,” Mom said turning to me. “Jackson has something he’d like to say.”

“No I don’t,” I countered, my voice barely a whisper, but she nudged me forward anyway. My face was hot and I only scanned the crowd to see that all their eyes were on me, some of them hiding smirks, others looked to be patiently waiting. Cindy was practically beaming from ear to ear, like she had just won the fucking lottery and it made me want to turn around and bolt. I didn’t want to give her the benefit.

“Go ahead Jackson,” Mom said as she reached forward and firmly gripped my shoulder.

“I’m sorry for missing the last day of work,” I started and glanced slightly behind me to make sure I was saying what she wanted to hear. When she smiled and nodded for me to turn back to the crowd in front of her I chewed on my bottom lip. As far as I knew, I had said everything that I had needed to, but she didn’t seem satisfied. “It looks like you did a lot of work today to finish up and I feel bad that I wasn’t here to help.”

“And what were you doing instead?” Mom asked stepping up to stand beside me.

“Hanging out with my friends on the river,” I answered glancing down at the ground. It was the first time that eye contact had really bothered me, I usually never broke it.

“We’re going to have a grand re-opening next week, Grace,” Henry said and I looked up to see him looking at me, his eyes soft and sympathetic. At the mention of the re-opening, Cindy’s smile faltered, but she didn’t take her eyes from me.

“Jackson will be there,” Mom said nodding her head. “He’ll also be in touch with you Henry, to work out the day he missed, isn’t that right Jackson?”

“Yes ma’am,” I muttered wanting to shrug away from her. It was the first and last time I called my mother ma’am, if I had anything to do with it.

“That sounds reasonable,” Henry said offering me a small smile. “I’m always getting into something.”

“Thank you for your time,” I muttered and turned away from the crowd. Mom let me walk back to the car and I slumped into the passenger seat and waited as she talked to people she knew from church and then finally to Henry and Cindy when the crowd dispersed. Luke hadn’t left his Mother’s side, but I kept making eye contact with him from where I sat. He looked like he wanted to run up to the car and talk to me, but I caught myself shaking my head, hopefully telling him to stay put.

When Mom finally said her goodbyes and came back to the car, I waited for her to close the door before I turned to her. She looked over at me as she started the car and carefully backed out of the parking spot.

“Was that really necessary, Mom?” I asked crossing my arms.

“Yes,” she answered offering me a quick smile. “I believe you learned a lot today.”

“Yeah,” I countered, “that my mother is crazy.”

“No, that when you mess things up you need to grow up Jackson and take responsibility for your actions,” she countered.

“That too,” I said leaning back into the seat closing my eyes trying to calm myself down. As Mom drove back home, I didn’t think I could face any of those people again, especially not Luke. No matter what the kiss meant from the other night. I didn’t see myself coming out of my room for at least a month or two. When I opened my eyes to sneak a glance at Mom, she seemed to be completely relaxed, that she completely forgot that I had been an ass and skipped out of work

“Shit,” she hissed as she hit the gas. “I completely forgot about dinner still being in the oven.”

 

 
Copyright © 2017 Krista; All Rights Reserved.

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Oh Jackson, I seriously thought you might just for once grow a pair and stand up to your friends. Apparently Luke shook you up enough to negate that. Keep up the great work, Krista. :-D

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I loved the fact that Grace FINALLY grew a pair at the end :D

 

With Grace holding Jackson by the elbow at the same time Cindy was holding Henry's elbow was too funny. They seem to be able to control men the same way :P

 

Hoping to see soon the first interaction between Luke and Jack post kiss, post apology.

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I'm honestly disappointed with how this chapter went. I know Jackson isn't going to have a totally smooth transition from the stuff going on before to where he'll (hopefully) end up at the end of the story. Or will he? The reason I was disappointed was simply that we've already seen this. Jackson acting irresponsible, Jackson screwing around with his friends, Jackson's mom being mad at him for acting like an idiot. I hate to say this but to me, it was just boring, and kind of a let down follow up to the bombshell at the end of the last chapter.

 

The only difference between how Jackson acts now, and how he acted at the beginning is that he feels bad about ditching the park, but still does it anyway. It's like he has had little to know character progression. Personally I would have found it more interesting if he'd ditched his friends and gone to the park. That could have set up all kinds of the presumable conflict to come. Or maybe I'm expecting too much too soon?

 

I was glad to see he didn't totally freak out after they left the pool, but then the next day he ditches the park. The problem is I can't figure Jackson out at all. He's totally oblivious to his own feelings, so it's hard to tell if he just used his friends as an excuse to avoid Luke due to his apprehension. Or was it just peer pressure since he didn't exactly seem to want to be there and kinda was just going through the motions with them? Either way, Luke is going to assume Jackson is avoiding him and now we'll basically be back to square one with these two. Oh well.

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Well, I think Jackson needed to go with his friends in order to find out how he feels about them and Ally, and I think his mother is a nasty bitch. I hope dinner is burnt black and the whole house smells disgusting. :pissed: She doesn't give a fuck about Luke, only about herself looking good in the eyes of Cindy and the churchy bunch. :rolleyes: Look at the casual way she dismissed his very real problem with swimming, coach and college. :facepalm:
And yeah, I know he initially wanted to go to the park and be with Luke, but that was an important thing for him to experience. And yes, if he had any backbone he wouldn't have let himself be persuaded. But seriously, Toby and Derek are his best friends and they finally show up and want to include him, and he's supposed to say no ? He's a teen. Not gonna happen.
Plus I think his worries about Cindy's sharp eyes seeing him and Luke acting different were quite realistic. So staying away might be a good idea. Hopefully, Henry will rope him and Luke in to help with something, so they can spend time together without the crazy witches hovering around.
Of course, Luke will be very upset to hear he spent the day with his friends. And now Jackson is so embarrassed he doesn't want to face him. Thanks to his self-righteous, interfering, oblivious, uncaring toad of a mother.
Rant over :lol:

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I have a different view on Jackson's behaviour. I'm wondering if, maybe subconsciously or maybe at the back of his mind the whole time, he was trying to have his punishment extended. Why? Because while he's being punished, his mother is pushing him to spend time with Luke. Once the punishment is over, he won't have an excuse to do so. Yes, he could be with Luke anyway, but being punished allows him to use that as an excuse with his friends as to why he's with Luke so much.

 

It's not the best justification for what he did, but when combined with his fear of Luke's mother detecting his feelings for Luke, I can see him justifying skipping the day in the park as the best option going forward.

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There certainly is a lot of analysis bouncing around this page! :P

 

Why couldn't what happened have been simple and logical?
1. Jackson was afraid of being with Luke today.
2. His friends gave him the perfect "escape."
3. ERGO - He went with his friends.

 

The behavior of every other character was exactly normal (for the character), like them or not. Trouble ahead? Sure.

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Aw, Jackson...he let himself be persuaded into going. I agree with Graeme, that this was subconsciously more about Luke. He also doesn't have to explain to his friends why he'd rather be at the park. Imagine their reactions. Notice the first thing they said was when did our friend become a loser. Yea, he's not ready for that either so the river was the easiest choice. Reading the scenes felt like he wasn't even really present with his friends..

 

I liked that he didn't reject what he was feeling about Luke and he held Luke's hand too in the car. I think you showed his struggling thoughts and feelings well. Now he has time to think or call Luke.. Luke didn't seem mad at him in the end, so that's encouraging.. Poor Luke's probably freaking out too.. Now I can't wait for what's next..
Also, his friends came out of the closet... Lol

 

To answer your question from the last review response: I think Cindy might have a suspicion as to what might be going on with Luke... She's like a hawk that one...

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Well, Jackson almost had me convinced that he had changed, with all of the thinking he had been doing about Luke. It was unfortunate that he had to go back to being his normal asshole self. I still don't understand what Luke sees in him. Jackson and his friends seem to think they are so cool and guys like Luke are losers, but really Jackson and his friends are the losers and Luke deserves SO much more! I really hope that Luke comes to his senses and forgets about Jackson.

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Toby and Derek face Jackson the perfect opportunity to escape thinking about kissing Luke. It is not surprising that he took it. Jackson might, just possibly, be changing a little at a time, but it is hardly likely that he'd have some kind of anti-assholy conversion experience in the flash of a moment. Change takes time, and pitfalls happen along the way. Really, he was lucky to have gotten through the day with nothing more than the forced apology he had to endure. In any event, spending the day with his friends...and his girlfriend...appeared to be nothing more than temporarily anesthetic. Neither Jackson's mind nor Jackson's body has forgotten Luke's kiss.

 


For for me, this was a cover-my-face-I-can't-bear-to-watch-the-possible-train wreck sort of chapter. I berthed a huge sigh of relief at the end of it, because nobody was horribly injured. Yet. Although I wonder what dinner was like.

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Jackson's mother, Grace, has shown us how good parenting is done. Her actions
show how effective she must be at her workplace and why they call her in at every
emergency. She has a good mind to be able to pull off the perfect way of reacting
to her child's bad behavior. She's out for results and to minimize damage. A very
effective person for sure. Everything I think about Jackson's actions has been said
very well here already, but I will say that this is a delightful story.

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I hope before the reopening there is a massive rainstorm that floods the park. I can't believe how Jackson's mom is so not worried about him losing his scholarship. He should tell her that working in the park has caused his times to be messed up. Toby and Derek kidnapping him was a DOOD thing after being punished for TOO LONG. after last chapter I started to think different about the ending but now i'm back to my original thought!

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Love that Luke was able to so shake Jackson that he was "forced" to retreat with his friends--only to have his mom initiate contact with Luke and his parents. Jackson's conflicts aren't over; perhaps in the next chapter, he'll face his issues with Luke head on (and perhaps Luke will be the one to help him sort through those feelings!).
Nicely done on a chapter filled with all sorts of emotional complexities! Can't wait for the next.

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On 06/03/2016 01:05 PM, Lux Apollo said:

Oh Jackson, I seriously thought you might just for once grow a pair and stand up to your friends. Apparently Luke shook you up enough to negate that. Keep up the great work, Krista. :-D

Thanks for reading! :D

 

Hard to turn down your best friends... yes? Especially when you're grasping at any distraction you can get.. lol.

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On 06/03/2016 02:45 PM, wildone said:

I loved the fact that Grace FINALLY grew a pair at the end :D

 

With Grace holding Jackson by the elbow at the same time Cindy was holding Henry's elbow was too funny. They seem to be able to control men the same way :P

 

Hoping to see soon the first interaction between Luke and Jack post kiss, post apology.

Thanks for reading! :D

 

Yes, she laid down the law quite big in this chapter. I think she's run out of things to try.. so there you have her latest attempt at reining Jackson in a bit.

 

The elbow holding was unintentional at first, then I went back and read it.. and thought.. damn clever me. :D Happy accidents.

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On 06/03/2016 02:55 PM, spikey582 said:

I'm honestly disappointed with how this chapter went. I know Jackson isn't going to have a totally smooth transition from the stuff going on before to where he'll (hopefully) end up at the end of the story. Or will he? The reason I was disappointed was simply that we've already seen this. Jackson acting irresponsible, Jackson screwing around with his friends, Jackson's mom being mad at him for acting like an idiot. I hate to say this but to me, it was just boring, and kind of a let down follow up to the bombshell at the end of the last chapter.

 

The only difference between how Jackson acts now, and how he acted at the beginning is that he feels bad about ditching the park, but still does it anyway. It's like he has had little to know character progression. Personally I would have found it more interesting if he'd ditched his friends and gone to the park. That could have set up all kinds of the presumable conflict to come. Or maybe I'm expecting too much too soon?

 

I was glad to see he didn't totally freak out after they left the pool, but then the next day he ditches the park. The problem is I can't figure Jackson out at all. He's totally oblivious to his own feelings, so it's hard to tell if he just used his friends as an excuse to avoid Luke due to his apprehension. Or was it just peer pressure since he didn't exactly seem to want to be there and kinda was just going through the motions with them? Either way, Luke is going to assume Jackson is avoiding him and now we'll basically be back to square one with these two. Oh well.

Thanks for reading!

 

The way I see Jackson's character right now: He takes two steps forward.. and one step back. There is still growth in his character, but it isn't a straight and easy growth. He hasn't had that.. "Oh" moment where everything hits the fan and the only way for him to move forward is with growth. Is that in his future? I'm not certain it is... I like the character, so his growth will be determined by readers perception. Right now I am in agreement with everyone that says he hasn't grown too much. He is a character study for me, I've never written a character that toes the line between likable and so bratty that you want to strangle him lifeless.

 

What I'm hoping is: That the story is good enough, the characters good enough, that you overlook Jackson's lack of growth and enjoy the story.

 

As long as there is more chapters coming, Jackson can still grow up. So keep that in mind. :D

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On 06/03/2016 11:41 PM, Frank Min 94 said:

I hope before the reopening there is a massive rainstorm that floods the park. I can't believe how Jackson's mom is so not worried about him losing his scholarship. He should tell her that working in the park has caused his times to be messed up. Toby and Derek kidnapping him was a DOOD thing after being punished for TOO LONG. after last chapter I started to think different about the ending but now i'm back to my original thought!

Thanks for reading! :D

 

The scholarship is the really the first thing that Jackson earned on his own, but his parents have proved in the past that they will let him do/get away with just about anything. They are probably thinking if he loses his scholarship, since Dad is a doctor and Mom is practically keeping a factory organized and optimal, they can just pay his tuition.

 

He is the way that he is.. partly because he has a lot of options to the same path. Through swimming, through is good enough grades, and then his parents are willing to pick him up as well.. or they seem to be. Usually when people have so many options they 'do' take things for granted.

 

But that can change. :)

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On 06/03/2016 03:12 PM, Timothy M. said:

Well, I think Jackson needed to go with his friends in order to find out how he feels about them and Ally, and I think his mother is a nasty bitch. I hope dinner is burnt black and the whole house smells disgusting. :pissed: She doesn't give a fuck about Luke, only about herself looking good in the eyes of Cindy and the churchy bunch. :rolleyes: Look at the casual way she dismissed his very real problem with swimming, coach and college. :facepalm:

And yeah, I know he initially wanted to go to the park and be with Luke, but that was an important thing for him to experience. And yes, if he had any backbone he wouldn't have let himself be persuaded. But seriously, Toby and Derek are his best friends and they finally show up and want to include him, and he's supposed to say no ? He's a teen. Not gonna happen.

Plus I think his worries about Cindy's sharp eyes seeing him and Luke acting different were quite realistic. So staying away might be a good idea. Hopefully, Henry will rope him and Luke in to help with something, so they can spend time together without the crazy witches hovering around.

Of course, Luke will be very upset to hear he spent the day with his friends. And now Jackson is so embarrassed he doesn't want to face him. Thanks to his self-righteous, interfering, oblivious, uncaring toad of a mother.

Rant over :lol:

Thanks for reading! :D

 

Lol. Grace and Cindy. Hmm. I don't know what to think about the discussion on them two yet. Some of you feel that Grace at least, is trying to do her best... it is just too little too late. I can't discount her for trying now that she's about to lose her child to college in a year. Cindy is a mostly unknown character. We see her has overbearing and definitely over protective... For better or worse though, these are the mothers this story has to offer... very different from the mothers of my earlier stories for sure.

 

I like the love Henry has received so far though. :D

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On 06/03/2016 03:22 PM, Graeme said:

I have a different view on Jackson's behaviour. I'm wondering if, maybe subconsciously or maybe at the back of his mind the whole time, he was trying to have his punishment extended. Why? Because while he's being punished, his mother is pushing him to spend time with Luke. Once the punishment is over, he won't have an excuse to do so. Yes, he could be with Luke anyway, but being punished allows him to use that as an excuse with his friends as to why he's with Luke so much.

 

It's not the best justification for what he did, but when combined with his fear of Luke's mother detecting his feelings for Luke, I can see him justifying skipping the day in the park as the best option going forward.

Thanks for reading!

 

I think if Toby and Derek didn't bust out on him from the closet. I would like to think he would have went in to work and - I agree - maybe that wouldn't have been the best option in the state of mind he was in. He definitely had a bit of a shock to sort through. Luke too, I imagine.

 

He definitely doesn't mind Luke's company anymore. :) So he's going to have to work out a way to balance everything out or I see him toppling over and falling on his face... or maybe some things can work themselves out without him having a hand in it - if only RL was that simple most of the time. :P

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On 06/03/2016 03:59 PM, skinnydragon said:

There certainly is a lot of analysis bouncing around this page! :P

 

Why couldn't what happened have been simple and logical?

1. Jackson was afraid of being with Luke today.

2. His friends gave him the perfect "escape."

3. ERGO - He went with his friends.

 

The behavior of every other character was exactly normal (for the character), like them or not. Trouble ahead? Sure.

Thanks for reading!

 

The friends did help in their own way, yes. :D He would have went into work at the park w/out their intrusion... we'll never know if that would have been a good idea or not...

 

It got him into massive trouble.. lol.. damned if you do, damned if you don't sort of day for him.

 

I think a lot of people going through what he is, would jump at a chance of an escape from that for awhile. So his decision to go made sense.

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On 06/03/2016 09:02 PM, Defiance19 said:

Aw, Jackson...he let himself be persuaded into going. I agree with Graeme, that this was subconsciously more about Luke. He also doesn't have to explain to his friends why he'd rather be at the park. Imagine their reactions. Notice the first thing they said was when did our friend become a loser. Yea, he's not ready for that either so the river was the easiest choice. Reading the scenes felt like he wasn't even really present with his friends..

 

I liked that he didn't reject what he was feeling about Luke and he held Luke's hand too in the car. I think you showed his struggling thoughts and feelings well. Now he has time to think or call Luke.. Luke didn't seem mad at him in the end, so that's encouraging.. Poor Luke's probably freaking out too.. Now I can't wait for what's next..

Also, his friends came out of the closet... Lol

 

To answer your question from the last review response: I think Cindy might have a suspicion as to what might be going on with Luke... She's like a hawk that one...

Thanks for reading! :D

 

He did seem to be going along with the breeze. Only participating when he thought he needed to. I mean, he did have fun with them. They did take his mind off of Luke - at least partially.

 

They are definitely people he trusts and feels comfortable with. Maybe a little shaky with Ally, but that was because he kissed someone that wasn't her... and I guess, even though Jackson is a bit of a brat, he seems to be a loyal one. I think if I were in his shoes, I'd be scared of what Ally would think if she found out about outside of relationship kissing.. :o So poor dear has that to worry about in his future, I think.

 

After the kiss, the hand holding came. It seemed to settle them both down and allow them to escape a bit.. I mean there is affection in hand holding.. you can't hold someone's hand and feel nothing.. So I do think that 'has' to be encouraging for both of them.

 

And Cindy is hawk eyed, yes. She is very protective, but she is also very biased, biases can skew perception. She may not like Jackson, but it may not be for 'that' reason and for what she sees in her own son... or of course maybe she does.

 

I'm definitely not going to spill the beans on her yet. :D Writers have to be cruel sometimes.

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On 06/03/2016 09:42 PM, jaysalmn said:

Well, Jackson almost had me convinced that he had changed, with all of the thinking he had been doing about Luke. It was unfortunate that he had to go back to being his normal asshole self. I still don't understand what Luke sees in him. Jackson and his friends seem to think they are so cool and guys like Luke are losers, but really Jackson and his friends are the losers and Luke deserves SO much more! I really hope that Luke comes to his senses and forgets about Jackson.

Thanks for reading!

 

Maybe Luke sees someone that is living for themselves. He may not see Jackson as someone that is selfish... or maybe Luke is prepared for that. He seems very self assured and comfortable with himself. It would take someone like Luke to put up with Jackson, for sure. Most people wouldn't... maybe Jackson will see that one of these days and calm his butt down. :) Maybe?

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On 06/03/2016 09:58 PM, Parker Owens said:

Toby and Derek face Jackson the perfect opportunity to escape thinking about kissing Luke. It is not surprising that he took it. Jackson might, just possibly, be changing a little at a time, but it is hardly likely that he'd have some kind of anti-assholy conversion experience in the flash of a moment. Change takes time, and pitfalls happen along the way. Really, he was lucky to have gotten through the day with nothing more than the forced apology he had to endure. In any event, spending the day with his friends...and his girlfriend...appeared to be nothing more than temporarily anesthetic. Neither Jackson's mind nor Jackson's body has forgotten Luke's kiss.

 

 

For for me, this was a cover-my-face-I-can't-bear-to-watch-the-possible-train wreck sort of chapter. I berthed a huge sigh of relief at the end of it, because nobody was horribly injured. Yet. Although I wonder what dinner was like.

Thanks for reading!

 

Now that you mention it, the forced apology was pretty small. He didn't lose his phone (for an extended period of time), he wasn't grounded on top of being grounded, and his car is still his to drive. Maybe Grace/his mother thought that knocking that ego/nothing can get in the way of my life mindset would bring him back down to Earth a little. But yes, as far as lingering punishments go, if he can get over the embarrassment he got off easy.

 

People like to think that people are brave. If something similar happened to me, though. I would be floating down a river too, if my friends offered that to me. This is completely new to him, the thoughts in his head aren't thoughts he entertained before.

 

He definitely hasn't forgotten about that kiss. Luke hasn't either. ;)

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On 06/03/2016 10:40 PM, Stephen said:

Jackson's mother, Grace, has shown us how good parenting is done. Her actions

show how effective she must be at her workplace and why they call her in at every

emergency. She has a good mind to be able to pull off the perfect way of reacting

to her child's bad behavior. She's out for results and to minimize damage. A very

effective person for sure. Everything I think about Jackson's actions has been said

very well here already, but I will say that this is a delightful story.

Thanks for reading!

 

Growing up in the south there's a saying that I think all Mothers have used in dealing with their children. It goes like this: "I'm at my Wits end with you!"

 

Usually that is followed with a new parenting strategy that may or may not be well thought out. It definitely seems like this was a moment for Grace.

 

I'm not sure you're being sarcastic or not, but if you aren't, I like that you liked her attempt at parenting this time. If you are, you definitely made me laugh as I read it thinking of it being sarcasm.

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On 06/05/2016 12:36 AM, Robert Rex said:

Love that Luke was able to so shake Jackson that he was "forced" to retreat with his friends--only to have his mom initiate contact with Luke and his parents. Jackson's conflicts aren't over; perhaps in the next chapter, he'll face his issues with Luke head on (and perhaps Luke will be the one to help him sort through those feelings!).

Nicely done on a chapter filled with all sorts of emotional complexities! Can't wait for the next.

Thanks for reading!

 

Yes, I can feel that the last two chapters have been the tipping point in the story. There are things Jackson will have to face head on in the coming chapters.. otherwise, he'll go crazy inside his own head. lol.

 

There was a lot of inner-dialog in this chapter, I'm glad you liked his inner complexities. :D

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I'm still on the fence about Jackson's mom, but I did like the fact that she made him apologize to Cindy and Henry and all those other church harpies. lol Jack did want to be there helping out and watching Henry with the excavator or back hoe, or whatever it was he was renting. Mainly he wanted to be there because he wanted to see Luke again. Maybe it's best that he wasn't there though. Not sure how they would react to one another, although the car ride back the night before was ok, and they even held hands!!

 

As the majority of your readers mentioned, Jackson didn't even seem to 'be' there with his friends; he seemed miles away, or at least down the waterway from the park. :P

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