Find You In The Dark
“you have got to be kidding me.” I groaned, kicking the tire of my piece-of-crap Toyota Corolla that had refused to start. Standing in my driveway, I unleashed every curse word imaginable as the minutes slowly ticked toward my inevitable tardiness. “Won’t start again, Maggie-Girl?” My father had poked his head out of the screen door. He had most likely been made aware of my predicament by my sailor-worthy tirade.
Sighing, I slammed my car door shut and picked up my messenger bag. “Nooo . . .” I dragged out the word in tired defeat. My dad held the door open for me as I made my way back into the house. “Didn’t you just have it in the shop two weeks ago?” he asked as I slammed my bag down on the kitchen table and threw myself into a chair.
I blew my bangs out of my eyes in frustration and didn’t bother answering. Everything was going so spectacularly wrong today. I shouldn’t have bothered to get out of bed. Maybe I should fake a cough or something and try to convince him to let me stay home.
My father took a bite of toast, crumbs falling into his neatly trimmed beard. “Well, I’ll drive you to school. Can’t have you
missing that big chemistry test.” He smirked at me, as if reading my ulterior plot to skip school.
I groaned for the millionth time that morning. I’d completely forgotten about the test, but of course my dad, with his iron-trap brain, remembered. Well, that thoroughly screwed up any chance of a good day. Merry freaking Monday.
“Maggie May, what are you still doing here? The tardy bell rings in T-minus-ten minutes.” My mother breezed into the kitchen, pouring herself a cup of coffee and conferring with her watch to make sure she wasn’t mistaken about the time. Looking at my superserious, all-business, pretty fantastic-looking mother, I wondered, and not for the first time, how I could have come from her DNA. She was my opposite in every possible way: where her hair was blond and shampoo-commercial perfect, mine was a dull, mousy brown that refused to be managed into anything resembling a fashionable style. My mom had a perfect figure. She didn’t look anywhere near her age, whereas I had the misfortune of being dubbed a “late bloomer.” My underwhelming cup size and nonexistent hips were hardly anything to write home about.
But I did have her eyes. And I will say, allowing myself zero modesty, that they were pretty awesome. I loved that I shared the same dark-brown eyes and thick lashes. They were my best trait (well, aside from my astounding wit and amazing personality, of course), and I received my fair share of compliments because of them. So, no, you couldn’t compare me to the back end of a dog or anything, but, like most teenagers, I was anything but pleased with myself.
“Her car wouldn’t start. I’m just getting ready to take her to school.” My dad filled her in before I could answer. My mom gave me a sympathetic smile before giving her husband a rather obnoxiously sweet kiss good morning. They were really nauseating at times, the way they were still so in love with each other. However, deep down, I just wanted the same thing and I spent a lot of time
freaking out that I would never find it. But that was a panic attack for another time.
“We can help you with it this time, you know. You worked really hard over the summer to buy it and it’s been nothing but trouble since you parked it in the driveway.” My mom, despite her Barbie-perfect appearance and a no-nonsense accountant’s personality, was pretty amazing. I took the bagel she handed to me and licked the cream cheese from the top.
“Thanks. But I still have money saved up. Let’s just hope I don’t need a whole new flipping engine or something,” I muttered. My mom ruffled my hair as if I were still five and picked up her briefcase. “Well, Marty, if you’ve got this under control, I’ve got to get to the office. I’ll probably be late tonight.” My mom ran her own accounting firm in the city—and worked a lot.
She leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead and my dad another loud smack and left. I shoved the rest of my bagel into my mouth and wiped my lips with the back of my hand. A napkin appeared under my nose. “I don’t think you were raised in a barn, Maggie,” my dad joked. I lightly touched the napkin to my now-clean mouth, just to make him happy.
“You can head on out to the car. I’ll meet you there. Call Burt’s garage today; they’ll come and tow the car. Mom and I will pay for the towing, you pay for the repairs. Deal?” My dad put his tea mug in the sink and filled it with water. I felt guilty having my parents pay for my car in any way, shape, or form.
I had been the one who insisted on buying the shitmobile outside. My dad wanted me to shop around more, to get a CARFAX report; all that rational stuff that I, of course, wouldn’t listen to because I was seventeen years old and I knew way more than my parents. Well, I learned that lesson the hard way.
But I knew I most likely wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the tow and the repairs. My savings from my job at the ice-cream stand over the summer were almost depleted and I would
be firmly in mooch territory soon if I didn’t find another way to earn money.
I mumbled something unintelligible, not bothering to formulate words. Dad only chuckled. “I’ll interpret that as a thank-you,” he said, shooing me out of the kitchen. I walked out to the family minivan, not focusing too much on the public mortification of my librarian father taking me to school. If I hadn’t been feeling so negative, I’d have appreciated how considerate he was.
I really was lucky in the parental department. My mom and dad always seemed to take my teenage moods in stride. Not much ruffled their feathers. Not that I’d done much ruffling in my seventeen years.
So here comes the obligatory life rundown: I was your typical teenage girl, living in small-town America (Davidson, Virginia, if you really wanted to know), on the corner of Cliché and Stereotype. My life had been conventional and uneventful. I grew up the only child of the local beauty queen and the bookish guy she fell in love with. We had an apple-pie life of family dinners and games of Monopoly on Thursdays (Wednesdays if it was Mom’s week for Bunco).
My best friends, Rachel Bradfield and Daniel Lowe, had been my partners in nonexistent crime since the womb. Our mothers had grown up together and it was predetermined that we would be as close as they had been.
I was suitably smart, sporting a solid B-plus average, and had aspirations toward college, just like my friends. I did my homework, followed the rules, and basically bored myself to death. I also was in a very deep, crater-sized rut. How sad to be a senior in high school and already done with it all. And the year had only just begun! It was the first week of September.
My car’s refusal to cooperate this morning only added to my overall malaise. I waited less than patiently in the passenger seat, tapping my fingers on the dashboard in an imperfect rhythm. “All
right, Maggie-Girl, buckle up.” My dad’s persistent use of my childhood pet name (only mildly less obnoxious than the fact that I was named after some ’70s rock song by a guy with really bad hair and a penchant for supermodels) was sort of grating this morning. I wasn’t sure if Dad had yet realized that I wasn’t ten anymore. My parents had a really hard time accepting that I was—gasp—almost an adult. Although, to be fair, most days (this morning included) I didn’t necessarily act the part.
I pulled out my phone and sent a quick text to Rachel and Daniel, letting them know I was running late. Judging by the time, I was at least missing the painful drone of our assistant principal, Mr. Kane, as he read the morning announcements. He always sounded as if he needed to blow his nose.
So maybe the day was still salvageable. I tried to minimize conversation as Dad drifted lazily through our tiny town toward the high school. He sang along, rather badly, to the Righteous Brothers, his voice an alarming falsetto. His shoulders swayed with the beat.
Dad was being so over the top that I couldn’t help but crack the barest hint of a smile. He caught me, of course, my emo facade at an effective end. He let out a whoop. “There’s my girl’s smile! I knew it was hiding somewhere.” He reached over and poked me in the side, causing me to squirm and laugh grudgingly.
“You are such a dork, Dad,” I told him, not unkindly. He only grinned and turned up the radio. The auditory torture didn’t last much longer before we pulled up in front of Jackson High School. I barely gave my dad time to slow down before I propelled myself from the still-moving vehicle.
“Don’t forget to call the garage at lunch,” Dad reminded me again. I gave him an ironic salute and turned to walk toward the school. I was glad to see I wasn’t the only straggler this morning. A few other kids were hurrying from the parking lot.
I fumbled to get my phone out of my jacket pocket, wanting to send a last text to my friends to let them know I was there. I was
having a lot of trouble getting it out; thus I was less than attentive as I slammed into the back of someone who had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Hey!” I yelled as I collided with the very solid body. I dropped my phone, the back popping off and the battery skittering across the concrete. The guy dropped the papers he was holding and they scattered at his feet.
We simultaneously let loose a string of expletives that would have earned me a mouth full of soap had my mother heard. “What the hell?” the guy growled, stooping to pick up the items he had dropped in our human fender bender. Okay, I was already in a craptastic mood and his snotty tone was just the icing on an already pissy cake. So, maybe I was being clumsy and all, but I didn’t need some random guy giving me grief. “Oh, I’m sorry; did I miss the Stop sign?” I fired back, not bothering to look at the jackass as I tried to fit the broken metal onto the back of my phone.
I heard what sounded like a gritting of teeth. “Guess it’s too much to expect an apology.” His sarcasm was thick, his words ground out through an obvious grimace.
“Probably,” I quipped, finally looking up into the most amazing pair of brown eyes that I had ever seen.
Hot damn. Cue the violins and happy cartoon bunnies; I was in the middle of a Disney moment. Because this guy was gorgeous. And we were standing so close to each other. If he hadn’t been holding on to a barely contained rage directed at yours truly, it could have almost been construed as romantic.
Just add delusions to my growing list of issues.
Mr. Cutie stood there in all his infuriated glory—and he was seriously angry. His perfectly symmetrical face (covered with a fine dusting of adorable freckles, I might add) was flushed a rather alarming shade of red. Those awesome brown eyes flashed murder. He was quite a bit taller than I, with dark hair that curled around his forehead and ears as if he hadn’t bothered with a hair
cut in a while. He had a cleft in his chin and a tiny scar under his right eye. And, despite his obvious good looks, he appeared decidedly unhinged. Wow, they were only papers.
Cute Boy took a deep breath and closed his eyes. I jammed my hands into my pockets and made the decision to get the hell out of there. I started to move around him, making sure to give him a wide berth. His voice, much calmer now, stopped me. “Well, you could at least tell me where the main office is. You know, after practically running me over and all.”
If his tone had been playful, I would have been able to pretend he was flirting with me. But nope, he was terse and irritated and in a very bad mood. And I had had enough of it for one morning. So, his cuteness aside, this guy could go take a flying leap somewhere.
“You’re a big boy; I’m sure you can handle this one on your own.” I turned and quickly walked away.
“Thanks for nothing!” he yelled after me. Yep, Hot Boy came with a bad attitude. Not really my idea of a good time, thank you very much. I couldn’t get away fast enough.