Thursday, December 9, 2010

FUN, FUN, FUN...er...and GAMES

Hey, friends.  Kelly and I are now rounding out our fifth week of these here FUN AND GAMES, and I don't know about you, but I'm still having loads of fun.  So, without further adieu, here's my snip for this week.

“So, that’s why you’re always so early to school and then the last one to leave,” Harper said as they inched their way through the checkout line.


“Yeah, Lucky was thrilled that the district had school of choice,” Owen nodded absently. Really, he’d much rather be talking to Harper about anything else, even something as stupid as the weather. Not his smart-ass brother. “Briarcliff has a much better science program than Ridgefield does.”

“Yeah, I know. Truman went there, and I keep telling Grace about all the programs they have, especially in Chemistry, but she won’t transfer. Says she’s fine where she is.”

“I think she cares more about being with her best friend,” he replied sagely.

Yeah, that’s what Harper always figured, and no matter how much she tried to reassure her friend that nothing would ever come between them, regardless of whether they attended the same school or not, she was secretly relieved that Grace refused to leave Ridgefield. “So, your brother doesn’t care about being close to you?” she asked and grinned at his groan. “And, what kind of name is Lucky, anyway?”

“It’s Luke—well, Lucas actually,” he answered with a chuckle. “If you ask him why we all call him Lucky, he’ll say it’s because he’s got a gift for talking to the ladies.”

Just from his crooked grin alone, Harper found herself relaxing, a small tentative smile sliding into place. It was so easy, being with Owen. He was just so nice, so honest, so real. But, Mr. Haas had seemed that way, too. At first. No. She shook herself, gave herself a mental kick. She wouldn’t let those kinds of thoughts ruin this for her. She was going to have fun, damn it. Whether she wanted to or not. Because that was normal, and she wanted—no needed—normalcy right then. She needed it more than she needed air, and with Owen, she actually felt like she could breathe.

“But that’s not the truth,” she guessed and was rewarded with another one of his deep, rich chuckles.

“Nah. The kid’s a walking accident. He’s fallen out of trees, out of bed. Hell, he’s even fallen off the roof a few times. Don’t even get me started on the number of near-death experiences he’s amassed since we got our licenses. And, each time, he’s walked away with only a few scrapes and bruises. Never anything more serious.”

“So, he’s lucky he’s survived this long?”

“Exactly.” At which point, they both burst into loud laughter.

They were called up next, and Owen hovered protectively at her elbow as the cashier rang up her purchases. After being handed the small bag containing her purchases and a receipt, she turned and bumped into him.

“Sorry!” they both said simultaneously and then laughed again, his warm and soft, hers nervous and slightly high-pitched as she hurried to put some space between them.

Owen opened his mouth to apologize again but was cut off by his name being called out.

“Hey, O! Over here,” Lucky shouted from across the store.

Careful not to actually reach out and touch Harper, he ushered her over to where Lucky had a tight hold on Grace. Although it didn’t look to him like his brother needed a tether to keep Harper’s friend glued to his side. Owen wasn’t all that sure whether Grace and Lucky would be a good idea together. Lucky may like to pretend that he was a major player, but sometimes, Owen knew his brother better than Lucky knew himself, and at that moment, it was clear that the boy had fallen and hard.

“Mom just called,” Lucky told him as soon as he and Harper got to them. “She got called into work early and wants me to come home to watch the kids.”

“Oh, okay,” Owen frowned, clearly not ready to leave just yet. He reached into his pocket to dig out his keys.

“Nah, dude. You stay. Gracie, here—“ He flashed gleaming white teeth and jerked a thumb toward the girl to his right. “—offered to take me home since we live so close to her. That way you and Harper can hang out a little longer. Uh, just remember that I’m going out tonight, so you do have to come home sometime.” He punctuated that with an exaggerated wink.

“Uh…” Owen didn’t miss the way that Harper stiffened beside him at Lucky’s suggestion. “That’s okay, Luck. We’re pretty much done, right Harp?”

“Um…” she looked at Grace, unsure of how to read her friend. “Well, I did want to run over to the bookstore, but that can wait if you want to go, Grace.”

Ball in her friend’s court. Since when did it get so hard to communicate with Grace? They’d always been the best of friends, ever since that day in kindergarten when Melanie Sanders tried to steal Harper’s brand new box of crayons and Grace had stood up to the mean girl, dumping blue paint on her head when Melanie continued to pick at Harper. Of course, both Mrs. Maguire and Harper’s mother had been called to the school, and the girls—through unspoken agreement—had steadfastly denied that either had anything to do with Melanie’s blue hair. Ever since then, they’d been inseparable and never once had they ever misread the other’s silent signals.

That is, until now.

Now, they were like two strangers, and Harper couldn’t bear the fact that it was all her fault.

Owen looked back and forth between the girls, distinctly uncomfortable because it was so painfully obvious that Harper was, too. “No big, Luck. I’m ready to go anyway.” He turned to Harper with a smile, reached out a hand to her, but snatched it back at the last moment. “I’ll see you tonight?”

Absently, she nodded. “Yeah, seven.”

His shoulders sagged with the relief that she hadn’t changed her mind, at least not yet. “Okay, let’s go.” With a nod for Grace, he grabbed his brother’s arm and dragged him out of the store, leaving the girls behind without a backward glance, even though he was itching to shoot one last quick look at Harper. “Real smooth, Luck,” he growled at his twin once they were out of earshot.

“Hey,” Lucky threw his hands up as if to shield himself. “I was just trying to help out you, man. It’s not my fault you had to go and fall for a girl who can’t bear to be touched by any guy, even you.” He halted abruptly, leveled a concerned look at Owen. “Are you really sure you want to do this…with her? I mean, it’s just asking for problems, O. I’m not trying to be a dick or anything, but I just don’t see how any girl can be worth dealing with that kind of baggage.”

Owen let go of his brother, torn between socking him in the mouth for that comment and wrangling him into a noogie—their version of a hug. “Yeah, she’s worth it,” he finally said. In his mind, he saw her how she was just a couple weeks ago, glasses slid down on her nose, playful grin on her face as she’d tried to teach him to play Twinkle, Twinkle on her violin—an endeavor he’d sucked cheesy donkey balls at—and then her laugh, a glorious lilting melody, when he’d tossed the instrument back at her in order to pick up his drumsticks.

“Yeah,” he said again. “She’s so worth it.”