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The Best Year - 6. Chapter 6

After three rounds everyone was too tired and the crates were nearly empty of balloons so Tim called it a night. I was covered with wet and dry paint, it made my clothes feel heavy and I could feel my feet squishing around in my shoes from paint that dripped down inside them. We were the last ones to leave, Tim wanted to talk to Luke about the place more. It was the only time I felt out of place and bored after the fight we had on the way here.

“Ready to go?” Luke asked and I nodded as Tim slapped me on the shoulder.

“Be safe going home,” he said and Luke smiled and punched Tim’s shoulder before he led me out to the parking lot.

“Is it nice having an uncle like Tim?” I asked as we walked to his car.

“Yeah he’s fun,” Luke answered as he popped the trunk of the car and dug out a couple of towels. He tossed one to me and I opened the passenger door and spread it out over the seat to minimize the damage we’ll be doing with the paint.

“I can’t wait to bring my friends here when he opens for real,” I said glancing across the front seats to where Luke was spreading his own towel over his seat.

“Yeah,” he said, sighing as he closed his door. I quickly got in and closed mine and he waited until I buckled my seatbelt before he started the car. “I think Tim would like you bringing in all that business from your school.”

“I guess,” I shrugged, noticing that Luke already seemed to be coming down from the night we had.

“When do you think you’ll be free to do what you want?” He asked as he slowly backed out of the parking space and turned towards the exit. The parking lot was already mostly empty since Tim held us up to talk.

“Don’t know,” I answered, shrugging. “I figured I’d be free of this shit already, but for some reason they want to make me suffer this time.”

“I wouldn’t call tonight suffering,” he said. “I know when I’m grounded I have to stay at home with a list of chores to do.”

“When have you ever been grounded?” I asked, smirking when he rolled his eyes.

“I’ve been grounded a couple of times,” he answered, “hasn’t everyone with parents that actually care a little bit?”

“Was it those R rated movies?” I asked and he shook his head frowning as he looked ahead. I saw his hands tighten on the steering wheel and I knew he wasn’t going to tell me the truth.

“No,” he finally answered and an uneasy silence fell between us.

“Have you ever had a girlfriend?” I asked when the silence overpowered my ability to completely ignore him. I never really liked quiet, I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted fun and being stuck here with someone I didn’t really know enough to like, and likely wouldn’t like after I did. Being with him only made me miss my old friends more.

“One,” he answered, shrugging. “Didn’t last very long.”

“She want kids or something?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood. Luke’s eyes widened as he glanced at me, only smiling when I failed at not laughing.

“No, she moved,” he answered, “last year.”

“Oh,” I said, “sorry about that.”

“It wouldn’t have worked anyway,” he answered and I was about to ask him what he meant, when he slowed and flipped on the turn signal. I hadn’t been paying attention to the road and when I looked up I saw that he was about to turn into my driveway. “I hope we got back before your curfew.”

“I don’t really have one with you,” I blurted and when he looked at me I felt my face flush.

“That’s too bad then, I would have kept you out later,” he said smiling. “If you didn’t annoy me too much.”

“Yeah,” I said glancing down at the clock on his dash. My eyes widened when I realized that it was after midnight and he smirked when I turned to look up at him.

“Like I said earlier,” he commented, “my parents trust me.”

“I bet they won’t if you keep hangin’ out with me,” I countered unhooking my seatbelt. “I am the bad influence.”

“And I’m a good one,” he added, shrugging. “You won’t get me into any trouble, see you tomorrow, right?”

“Like I have a choice,” I grunted and he laughed as I opened the passenger side door. “But thanks for the night out.”

“Anytime,” he said as I slid out of the seat and closed the door behind me.

The lights were still on in the living room and I sighed, not turning to look at Luke as I made my way up the stairs to the front porch. The front door flew open before my hand could turn the handle and I let it drop back to my side as Mom stood in front of me. I squinted against the lights behind her as she gave Luke a quick smile and wave before nodding her head for me to come inside.

“You were at his Uncle’s place all night?” She asked, crossing her arms as I closed the door behind us.

“Yeah,” I answered, shrugging. “Do you really think anyone else would let us in looking like this?”

“He didn’t take you to the ballgame or anything did he?” She asked studying me.

“No, Mom,” I answered, sighing. “He’s the good one, remember?”

“Yes,” she answered and I would have laughed if she didn’t look relieved. “Jackson, I cannot say this enough, Cindy and Henry are our dearest friends…”

“Luke wouldn’t take me to the game, Mom,” I said rolling my eyes. “I asked and we fought about it, he almost kicked me out of the car and told me to walk my ass back home. Your plan on him being my nanny is working.”

“Good,” she said smiling. “I’m glad, did you have fun?”

“Until I got home,” I answered and she sighed.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I just didn’t expect you to be out so late, so I figured you… well never mind that, how was it?”

“I think Tim will do great if the paint doesn’t bankrupt him first,” I answered as I stepped around her to go up stairs. The dry paint on my arms and in my hair was really starting to annoy me.

Feeling tired I took a quick shower knowing I had another day of free labor to give people I didn’t even like tomorrow. By the time I was finished the neon rainbow of paint swirled around the drain and I finally felt clean.

When I dried off and wrapped the towel around my waist I opened the door and jumped when I saw Mom standing in the hallway waiting for me. She smiled stepping to the side so that I could enter the hallway.

“I’m proud of you, you know that right?” Mom asked and I saw that our past week of fighting had bothered her more than she let on. I almost hoped she would break down and free me from all this shit, but instead I smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, I know,” I answered and she reached up and messed up my damp hair before walking down the hallway to her room.

“Goodnight, I love you,” she said and I felt my face flush as I nodded again and mumbled that I loved her too as I stepped inside my bedroom. She had been saying that a lot over the week they held me captive. I knew both of them loved me, despite everything I’ve done they never really gave me the impression that my ass had overstayed my welcome or anything. They were my parents, I know they would stick with me through all my wildness. I just hated that they finally took the initiative to stick to their discipline.

Sighing, I pulled on a pair of boxer briefs and fell into bed. All the running I did earlier and the quiet house eased my mind enough for me to stop thinking about everything I was missing already during my senior year of high school. So I missed one party after a football game, at least tonight was fun enough to distract me from that. Yawning I slid under my bed sheets and turned off the lamp on the nightstand before rolling over and falling asleep.

The next morning I sat on the couch waiting for my ride to the park to come. Mom and Dad had slept in and if I knew where the fucking keys were I would have bolted already. When someone knocked on the door I stood, cursing under my breath, but was surprised when I opened the door expecting Luke. Instead Cindy was standing in front of me, a tight lipped smile on her face.

“I see you’re ready,” she said, “let’s hit the road.”

“Alright,” I mumbled as she turned on her heels and walked back down the stairs to Luke’s truck. She was towing a trailer and what looked like a beat up lawn mower that had seen its best days before I was born. Noticing me looking at it she smiled, shaking her head.

“You can’t say no to Miss Grant, the poor mower hasn’t seen the light of day since the mid-eighties, I think,” Cindy said as she opened the driver's side and I walked around and slid into the passenger seat.

“Where’s Luke?” I asked feeling my face warm slightly after she turned to answer me. I could see the frown coming before she turned on around to begin backing out of the driveway.

“He got some bad news this morning,” she answered, “he’s not in the best of moods, so he decided to stay home.”

“That sucks,” I said and she shot me a look, but didn’t say anything so I didn’t apologize for my language.

“His school is closing over winter break,” she said, “we thought we could get through the year, but some things fell through.”

“That’s too bad, don’t you work there?” I asked and she nodded.

“I can find another teaching position easily enough,” she responded, “but Luke will have to be home schooled his senior year, so he’s not looking forward to that.”

“He can always come to our school, it’s not far from where you live,” I said and she frowned, shaking her head. I could almost see the argument she had with Luke, likely about this very thing playing out on her face. I know she couldn’t be that annoyed with me over just suggesting it.

“Thank you for your concern,” she said in that polite way adults told people to shut up.

The rest of the ride over to the park was quiet, she didn’t feel the need to fill it with endless babbling like Henry or Luke. It would have been a welcome change if I knew the reason for her silence was that she just didn’t like me that much. She may have been Mom’s best friend, but she was always only just polite to me. I didn’t go to their church either and I knew she hated the idea that I was spending so much time with Luke. She had to really like Mom to agree to something like this, or maybe it was Henry, it sounds like something he would do. Henry was one of those annoying optimists.

After she parked, I hesitated by the lawn mower, but Cindy made no move to haul it out. I doubted the thing still ran anyway, if it did I doubted it would last the entire day. Sighing I followed her to where everyone was gathered around Henry, there was a line of assorted mowers and already out in the field, a large faded and rusty green tractor. There was already a strip of grass cut behind it and Henry seemed proud of himself.

Ignoring the speech he was giving about safety and what settings everyone was to use to keep the grass looking evenly cut, I scanned the people for Luke. When I realized that I was bummed about not seeing him, I shook my head and crossed my arms over my chest. He didn’t matter to me, him being upset about his bible loving school closing didn’t either. Last night was fun, but that wasn’t because of him, not really. It was the paint. Cindy said he had wanted to stay home anyway. I tried not to think about being here alone with these people without him at least distracting me.

But when I did see him out of the corner of my eye, he was coming around the picnic shelter kicking a rock. I heard Cindy sigh beside me and when I glanced in her direction, I could see that she was looking at Luke as well. I didn’t know her well enough, but it looked like she was surprised and a little disappointed at seeing him there. Even though he was supposed to be here, volunteering for this shit, while they made a prisoner out of me. I would have thought she would be relieved to see him, he didn’t look all that pissed off to me anyway. It was almost as if she told him to stay home and he decided to defy her in some way. There was definitely more going on than I could understand just by the looks they shot one another.

When I looked back I noticed that he was looking at me, seeing me there he smiled and stopped kicking the rock and started towards us still gathered around the mowers. Henry was just finishing his safety lecture when I turned my attention back to him. He looked like he was itching to get back on the tractor and when he dismissed everyone, people hopped on the lawn mowers and adjusted the settings. I started towards one that was unattended, but I sighed when I saw Luke waving me over to where he stood. He had a tool belt hoisted over his shoulder and a pair of gloves, so I knew he wasn’t part of the mowing crew.

When I arrived the other half of the volunteers not mowing were beginning to form a small crowd around him. He had a couple more tool belts and a few boxes laying on the ground beside him and when I joined the group he cleared his throat and smiled at everyone.

“Where do you think we should start?” He asked and I watched as he measured up the mangled and rusted swing sets. I glanced over my shoulder and grimaced at the size of them and wondered if I was up to date on my tetanus vaccination. “I’m thinking the jungle gym first, it is mostly fiberglass and plastic, I think.”

“Sounds good to me,” an older man said. He already had a tool belt on his waist and when Luke glanced in my direction I shrugged.

“Alright, part of us will start breaking down the slides, the others can start on the monkey bars and the walking bridge,” Luke instructed and when the crowd broke into two smaller groups Luke walked up to me and handed me the tool belt that he had on his shoulder.

“Don’t you need this thing?” I asked, feeling the weight of it in my arms. It was already loaded down with some tools, but he just shrugged only glancing in my direction. His usual smile was already gone and he didn’t wait around to see if everyone followed him to the disheveled jungle gym still surrounded by the overgrown grass.

Not really knowing anyone else, I followed him and when he noticed my approach I saw him sigh and turn his back to me. I watched him take out a wrench and begin to strain against the rusted nut as I fumbled with the toolbelt trying to get it buckled around my waist tight enough not to fall down. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing and it made me not want to be there more than all the other times I was forced to be here. Picking up trash was pretty straightforward, although not enjoyable at least I felt like I was contributing. Now I was only embarrassed as people politely shuffled around me as they worked.

Still straining, Luke finally gave up on getting that nut to loosen and he glanced at me before moving on to another one. I shrugged and he shook his head, at least the second nut he chose began to loosen.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked after someone bumped into my shoulder carrying one of the rungs from a metal ladder.

“Whatever you want to, I guess,” Luke answered going back to the one he had trouble with.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I answered, crossing my arms. I clenched my mouth shut to keep from cursing, I doubted these church people would like that.

“That doesn’t really surprise me,” he said sighing as he gave up on that nut again. This time instead of moving on to a different one he banged the wrench against the metal bar before he turned his attention to me.

“You don’t have to be an… mean about it,” I said glancing around to see if anyone overheard what I said.

“So you can be an ass, but I can’t?” He asked and I noticed a few people stopped working to look at him. “I’m sorry guys, I’ve had a rough morning.”

“I wasn’t trying to be one,” I hissed, “I just asked you what needed to be done. I have the stupid belt on, I haven’t complained, I don’t think.”

“No for once you haven’t,” he said smirking. Then he sighed and handed me the wrench he had. “I think I have some lubricant in my toolbox, it might get that stubborn nut to turn.”

I watched him go over to his toolbox and grab an aerosol can. Then he stepped around me to spray the nut he couldn’t get loose. Flakes of rust streamed down with the lubricant, but he motioned for me to try it. When I put the wrench on it I strained until the wrench hurt my hand, but it finally screeched as it turned. I kept loosening the nut until the screw fell out and Luke caught it before it hit the ground and disappeared in the grass. He tossed it into a bucket with other rusted screws and shit.

“Here’s your wrench,” I said, holding out the wrench for him, but he already had another one in his hand and was going at another nut.

With everyone working on the jungle gym it wasn’t long before we had enough of the screws out to start disassembling it. My hands ached and I had to stop a couple of times for Luke to spray more of the rusted nuts before they would turn. My shirt was beginning to soak through from sweat and my face felt hot as sweat ran down from my forehead. I kept using the bottom of my shirt to wipe my sweat until I saw a few of the younger girls staring at me. Ever since Toby told me about the church girls, I couldn’t help blushing every time the thought crossed my mind.

We had the jungle gym in a mangled pile when Cindy called everyone over to the shade tree for lunch. I hadn’t packed my own lunch, so I had to fall in line behind everyone else and wait to be handed a sandwich and a bottle of water. When I got mine I walked back to the picnic shelter to see that all of the battered tables were gone.

“Yeah we did that in our free time,” Luke said from behind me.

“How often do you work on this shithole before the weekend?” I asked sitting down on the concrete just far enough inside the shelter to shade me from the sun.

“Some after school,” he said, frowning as he opened the ziplocked bag.

“Your mom told me about your school,” I said as I broke the seal of my water and unscrewed the cap. “Must suck.”

“Not really,” he answered, shrugging. “Just the part where Mom is going to homeschool me my senior year.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t imagine having Mom as a teacher,” I said and he didn’t smile.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he countered as he took a bite of his sandwich and looked straight ahead. I could see the park reflected in his eyes and I coughed looking away, hating that I was actually interested in what was going on with him. Maybe it was because I was being kept away from everyone I actually cared about. “You wouldn’t understand anyway, you know we don’t have a prom or anything like that and barely anyone still goes.”

“Why is it closing?” I asked peeking inside my sandwich to see what it was. I had a suspicion that I was about to be fed tuna and I hated fish. When I saw the slimy mixture smooshed between two chilled and soggy pieces of bread I shoved it back inside the plastic bag and put it aside. He noticed and smirked offering me his sandwich.

“It is turkey,” he said when I shook my head. I hadn’t had anything to eat all day and he had already taken a bite out of it.

“I don’t like tuna,” I countered and he shook his head.

“Trade, I do,” he said and I sighed and handed him my sandwich and he gave me his. “The school is closing because two of the major companies that donate can’t.”

“Oh,” I said, “don’t you guys pay tuition?”

“Not enough students to keep the place open,” he said through a few bites. “Your parents have been donating some or we already would have closed.”

“So you’re to blame when I couldn’t get an olympic sized pool in the backyard,” I joked, shaking my head.

“Pretty much,” he said. “I tried to get Mom to let me go to your school.”

“There’s nothing too fucking special about my school,” I answered and even though I pretty much suggested that he transfer there to Cindy earlier, now that I was sitting with him under the picnic shelter I didn’t want him going to my school. I could see him following me around the hallways, we weren’t even friends out in this shithole park, but at least I only saw him during the weekend.

“Beats sitting across from your mother as she attempts to teach you calculus when she’s a biology teacher, and not like we get too deep in that science stuff either,” he explained and I awkwardly swallowed my water trying not to laugh.

“Not good for the old bible, that science,” I countered, finishing off the turkey sandwich and he looked around shaking his head.

“You’re going to get thrown out of here,” he said sighing. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.”

“I’ll be good,” I said, “if I get thrown out of my community service I can kiss my car and phone goodbye until I leave for college.”

“Probably,” he added smiling and I looked out and saw that people were starting to gather up their trash and head back to work. I rolled my eyes seeing Henry damn near sprinting back to the tractor.

By the end of the afternoon, my hands were sore and had a few blisters. Rust and dirt covered my clothes and I had sweated through my shirt. This is the most disgusted with myself I’ve ever felt. We did make progress though, there was a heap of scrap metal and fiberglass that used to be a massive jungle gym. The mowing went well as well and the park had finally taken shape. The concrete basketball court was uncovered, although it needed both goal posts replaced. The baseball diamonds would still need a lot of work, but the tennis courts looked like a lost cause. I doubted the budget would do much else, I hated seeing all these people smiling and proud of what they’d done, knowing one good flood or something would erase it and we’d all be back at square one. Well they would, I wouldn’t be back. I was thoroughly sick of this place and when Mom and Dad thought I learned my lesson I will never be stepping foot in this place again.

“Ready to go Jackson?” Cindy asked from behind me. I hadn’t heard her approaching as I looked over the pile of junk I helped dismantle. When I turned to face her she frowned past me and I knew she was looking at Luke behind me.

“Yeah,” I answered, shrugging some of the tension from my shoulders. I could already hear Coach Tate cursing me as I did laps later.

“I’ll take him Mom,” Luke offered and I heard her sigh.

“You have things at home Luke,” she argued, crossing her arms. She would likely look more formidable if she didn’t have grass in her hair, that was all I could see.

“It will only take a couple of minutes,” Luke countered and I felt my face flushing despite the heat of the afternoon. None of this would have happened if I had my car, I felt like a fucking loser not being able to escape and having them two argue over who was going to drive me home. It wasn’t like I lived far away from this dump, just down the road in this small assed town.

“I’ll go wait in the parking lot,” I muttered, turning away from them. Not seeing Henry, I ran right into him and caught myself from cursing. He was also sweaty and I shuddered.

“Let Luke take him on home Cindy,” Henry said, offering me a smile as he adjusted his glasses. What little hair he had left on his head had curled and he looked ridiculous, but like Luke was always smiling. I never thought I would see someone so perpetually optimistic. Of course, he got to ride a tractor all day while I slaved over rusted bolts that wouldn’t budge.

“Come on Jackson,” Luke said, not waiting for his mom to object. I glanced at Cindy who was glaring at Henry, but she didn’t say anything as we started walking.

“What was that about?” I asked after we got to his truck, but he shook his head glancing back towards them. I looked and saw her finally lighting into Henry who looked like a wounded pup, but he reached over and patted Cindy on the shoulder then began to gently lead her towards their car.

“Come on, I have to get this piece of crap mower back so I can take the trailer off the truck,” Luke said and I opened the passenger door and slid in.

I barely had my seatbelt buckled when he started the car and backed out of the parking lot. Thankfully most everyone else had left and the parking lot was empty, as he didn’t even look around as he backed out of the spot. For the first time after meeting him, I doubted I would see that annoying smirk cross his face. For once, I would have rather seen that instead of the silent anger that he had now. Even when I had pissed him off before we got to his Uncle’s, he recovered enough to smile and joke around.

“Mom hates that we’re hanging out,” he said glancing over at me. I noticed that his knuckles were white on the steering wheel as he gripped it. “She wants to tell your parents to let you off the hook.”

“That’s good, hopefully she does,” I said smiling, but he sighed.

“I thought she trusted me to stay out of trouble,” he countered, not really talking to me as he looked forward. He was driving slower than he usually did, but I didn’t think it was because of the trailer. He just didn’t seem like he wanted to go back home to face her. “I don’t want to be home schooled either, not by anyone. I’m stuck at home too much as it is.”

“Have you told her that?” I asked, feeling awkward again. “That you feel stuck at home too much, I mean.”

“She doesn’t care,” he answered slamming one hand against the wheel. When the horn sounded we both jumped and I watched him fight a small smile. “Sorry.”

“Do you think if I wasn’t such a bad guy that she’d let you?” I asked and this time he did smile.

“Maybe,” he said shrugging. “I doubt it, she’s always been like this, that’s why they founded the school. They remembered what it was like to go to a public school, she wanted a place where she could keep tabs on me.”

“I’m suddenly feeling damn lucky for my parents,” I said glancing out the window still feeling awkward that we were having this talk. I didn’t want to feel sorry for him, but I couldn’t help it. I could see that he was tired of missing out of things and the thought of Mom homeschooling me made me grimace. I doubted either of us would survive a month.

When we finally arrived at my house I saw Mom scrambling out of the house carrying her briefcase. Dad’s car wasn’t in the driveway and I smiled. She only looked that flustered when something bad happened at the factory and she would be pulling an all nighter to fix it. With Dad gone and me with practice, I only had myself to get me there. I was already longing for my car, skipping out on practice with a stomach bug, then riding out to the bonfire or whatever party was going on tonight that my friends wanted to check out.

“Where’s she headed in a hurry?” Luke asked as Mom finally noticed us pulling into the driveway. She visibly sighed and shut the car door and waited for us to get out.

“Honey!” She said as she rushed to the truck. Her voice muffled by the engine and my window. I quickly rolled it down and she leaned against it, her hair falling in wisps from her tight bun. “I have to go into work, they have messed up three orders and we’re so far behind as it is.”

“Glad to know business is going good,” I said and she shook her head.

“I can’t take you to practice and Rick is already at the YMCA with the rest of the kids,” she continued, still flustered. “You’ll have to miss practice, I guess.”

“Mom I can’t!” I groaned leaning back against the seat. “Tate will have my ass.”

“Jackson!” Mom hissed looked past me to Luke. “Language, sorry Luke.”

“He does it all the time,” Luke said, shrugging.

“Jackson we’ll have a talk about that later,” she said and I glared over at Luke.

“I’ll take him to practice, I don’t have anything else to do,” Luke offered and I frowned.

“I can drive you know,” I said as I turned back to her, she hesitated studying me.

“Oh no, sir,” she said, “you’ll come up with some excuse to get out of practice and go running off to heaven knows where.”

“I would not,” I countered crossing my arms. “Your faith in me is…”

“Non-existent when it comes to you and the other two,” she added when I couldn’t think of anything else to say. “Thank you Luke, if it really is okay?”

“Of course it is,” he said cutting the engine. “Can I leave the trailer here while we’re gone?”

“Yes, of course,” she said nodding and offering him a smile. “You’re a lifesaver, Luke.”

“Mom,” I hissed, “when is this grounding thing gonna end? It is more trouble than it is worth.”

“Tell you what Jackson,” Mom said, glancing at her watch. “I know it is, but if you can get through two weeks, you can have your car back.”

“Good,” I said and she leaned into the car and kissed me on the cheek.

“You stink,” she said wrinkling her nose. “I love you, behave and do well at practice.”

“Love you too,” I muttered glancing over at Luke who was smiling.

We watched her leave, barely stopping at the end of the driveway to make sure the road was clear before she backed out into the road. Then I got out of the truck and helped him guide the truck with the trailer on it into the yard so we could take the trailer off.

“I need to take a shower,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. “If I show up at practice looking like this Coach would drown me.”

“Alright, do I have time to take a shower and come back and get you?” He asked and I shrugged, not owning a watch and depending on my cell phone to keep track of time.

“You can take a shower here, we have two bathrooms,” I answered, “I’ll lend you some clothes we’re about the same size.”

“Alright,” he said, smiling as I turned and led him up the stairs to the front door. I quickly grabbed my house keys from my pocket and unlocked the door.

“The bathroom is just down the hall there,” I said pointing past the stairs. The only rooms down that way was a small bathroom and a storage closet where most of the small stuff that Mom didn’t want in the garage was kept. Like my baby shit that she liked to look over, I never understood why she was so attached to all that and kept most everything I owned growing up.

I watched him disappear down the short hallway and when I heard the bathroom door close I ran up the stairs. Knowing that I was pushing it for time I quickly got out of the sweaty, rust stained clothes and stepped into the shower. The blisters on my hands had mostly popped and the soap made them burn. Mom hadn’t noticed them earlier, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat accomplished with the day I put in, even though I hated about every moment of it. There was no mistaking the huge pile of junk we dismantled. We would likely be spending most of the day tomorrow taking down the massive swing sets and then taking all the scrap junk to the recycling center.

When I stepped out of the shower I quickly dried off and wrapped the towel around my waist. Then I opened the bathroom door jumping when I saw Luke hovering in the hallway.

“What the fuck, dude!” I yelled barely catching my towel before it fell off my waist.

“Sorry,” he said, trying not to laugh. “You didn’t leave me any clothes.”

“Oh,” I said sighing, “I didn’t, sorry.”

“Wow,” he countered, his eyes widening. “I think that’s the first time you apologized without some huge fight.”

“Shut up,” I grunted, stepping around him. “Wait out here a minute.”

“Alright,” he said leaning against the wall. His hair was a tousled mess of damp blond hair and I could smell Mom’s floral body wash on him and Dad’s deodorant. It was a funny mixture of scents.

Closing the door behind me I walked over and grabbed a pair of boxer briefs. Then I dropped my towel and stepped into them before I grabbed a second pair and looked around in my closet for clothes that he could borrow then I walked back to the door and opened it.

“Here you go,” I said handing him the t-shirt, jeans, and boxer briefs. He smiled, but I closed the door before he could say anything and went back to the closet to find myself some clothes. Then I made sure everything I would need for practice was packed in my bag and when I stepped out into the hallway he was waiting barefoot holding his work boots. “Socks, fuck.”

“Yeah,” he said smirking and I walked over to my drawer this time though he followed me into my room and when I turned around I saw him looking around. “You Mom really lets you hang half-naked girls up on your wall?”

“Their bits are covered,” I said shrugging as I looked over at the stupid posters of sports illustrated models I hung up when I was thirteen and thought they were cool.

“And Michael Phelps,” he commented pointing to a larger poster behind my television set.

“My hero,” I said blushing slightly. “We better get going if I’m late, I’m dead.”

“Alright,” he said and I gently pushed him back towards the door, already preparing myself for endless bitching from Coach while I took laps for being late. No way in hell I’d make it there in time now, but that wasn’t what bothered me. For some reason knowing Luke would be there watching had my stomach in knots and I hoped I would calm my ass down before we got there or practice really would be hell.

Copyright © 2017 Krista; All Rights Reserved.
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I wish Jackson would be nicer to Luke, it isn't his fault. At least he realized Luke has a harder time at home than he ever did, even with the present grounding. But I hope he keeps up his courage to tell his mom when she is being utterly unreasonable and behaving ridiculously.

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What I really like about this chapter is that I finally began to wonder if a slow, circling dance between Luke and Jackson was beginning. Before, I wasn't sure I could happen. Now I wasn't certain that it wasn't. Your usual beautifully written dialogue and descriptions helped me envision events unfolding perfectly. I am so very much captivated by this story, and very grateful for it. Thank you. I know authors like to see this in a review, but this is heartfelt: more, please.

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I'm like Parker, the mating dance with Jackson and Luke is underway...and looking forward to a major uptick in its intensity! Just a shame that the home schooling may throw a monkey wrench into it all.
And, nice to see Jackson feeling some pride in himself and his work at the park. He'll end up with a balanced self-image by the time it's all done.
Another solidly-rewarding chapter...good job!

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On 03/10/2016 05:37 PM, Timothy M. said:

I wish Jackson would be nicer to Luke, it isn't his fault. At least he realized Luke has a harder time at home than he ever did, even with the present grounding. But I hope he keeps up his courage to tell his mom when she is being utterly unreasonable and behaving ridiculously.

Thanks for reading! :) Jackson still has his moments, yes? At least he has opened his eyes a little bit more in this chapter at least. Not all of it was about himself.. or I felt he did. I wouldn't expect him to do an about-face just yet though. ;) he's still just a teen aged boy after all.

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On 03/11/2016 01:08 AM, Parker Owens said:

What I really like about this chapter is that I finally began to wonder if a slow, circling dance between Luke and Jackson was beginning. Before, I wasn't sure I could happen. Now I wasn't certain that it wasn't. Your usual beautifully written dialogue and descriptions helped me envision events unfolding perfectly. I am so very much captivated by this story, and very grateful for it. Thank you. I know authors like to see this in a review, but this is heartfelt: more, please.

Thanks for reading! :) My beta-reader/proof reader said something similar - that there isn't real evidence that the two of them could even be interested in one another yet. Which, is intentional as well. :D I love that you like my dialogue as there is a crap ton of it used in my writing in general! :D Hopefully I can keep this story going somewhat regularly. I'm glad you like it. :D

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On 03/11/2016 03:59 AM, Robert Rex said:

I'm like Parker, the mating dance with Jackson and Luke is underway...and looking forward to a major uptick in its intensity! Just a shame that the home schooling may throw a monkey wrench into it all.

And, nice to see Jackson feeling some pride in himself and his work at the park. He'll end up with a balanced self-image by the time it's all done.

Another solidly-rewarding chapter...good job!

Thanks for reading! :)


The mating dance.. hmm. lol. I've actually written a bunch of dancing scenes in my writing, but I like the idea of a mating dance. Jackson has grown a little bit, so maybe the parents were a wee bit right about finally laying the hammer down and grounding him a bit.. lol. Homeschooling - I wonder just how stubborn Luke's Mom Cindy will be about that... ;)

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This was a great chapter.. The boys are becoming aware of each other without being aware that they are just yet. (Although I suspect there's more to Luke)Jackson almost wants to kick himself for actually responding to Luke then falls back into his old ways. He's kind of like a diamond in the rough and there are glimpses of the guy he doesn't know he wants to be. He should just relax. He and Luke are good for each other.


Great job....

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Luke's mom is a piece of work. I certainly wouldn't want to be homeschooled by her either! What, she's so afraid her son will pick up bad habits in a (GASP!) public school? Or just bad habits from Jackson (which of course she thinks already). Glad Luke's dad doesn't seem like such an ass. :P


I always loved your dialogue in your stories, Krista, but I especially love the banter between Jackson and Luke. Luke first came across as a little meek or shy, IMO, but he doesn't take any shit from Jackson, so kudos to him. :P


Ok, on to the next chapter. :)

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I didn't notice this first time through,  but Jack's Mom is not doing very well at momming, either. Yeah,  he'll test your patience, alright,  but when he took a kicking at school and maybe was concussed,  so she took away his phone.  And she wants him to be friends with Luke,   but Mom has complained about Jackson to Cindy so much that Cindy-  who really doesn't have much experience  with Jackson - doesn't want him around Luke.  And Jackson has a university acceptance and scholarship in hand,  and she's Ok with him missing practice and training sunburnt and blistered.    

This has arced so much from Ep1 !   

Edited by Mattyboy
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