the front of the mailbox.
I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks, but it doesn’t matter. After a middle of the afternoon run in the Texas heat and a limited supply of water, I’m sure my entire body is flush. I try not to glance back at his house, but curiousity is my weakness. It’s a modest house, not too flashy. It fits in well with the mid-income neighborhood we’re in. As does the car that’s in his driveway. I wonder if that’s his car? I can deduct from his conversation with whats-her-face from the grocery store that he’s my age, so I know he must live with his parents. But how have I not seen him before? How could I not know I lived less than three miles from the only boy in existence who can turn me into a ball of frustrated hot-flashes?
I clear my throat. “Well, thanks for the water.” I can think of nothing I want more than to escape this awkwardness. I give him a quick wave and break into a stride.
“Wait a sec,” he yells from behind me. I don’t slow down, so he passes me and turns around, jogging backward against the sun. “Let me refill your water.” He reaches over and grabs my water bottle out of my left hand, brushing his hand against my stomach in the process. I freeze again.
“I’ll be right back,” he says, running off toward his house.
I’m stumped. That is a completely contradictory act of kindness. Another side effect of the split personality disorder, maybe? He’s probably a mutation, like The Hulk. Or Jekyll and Hyde. I wonder if Dean is his nice persona and Holder is his scary one. Holder is definitely the one I saw at the grocery store earlier. I think I like Dean a lot better.
I feel awkward waiting, so I walk back toward his driveway, pausing every few seconds to look at the path that leads back to my home. I have no idea what to do. It feels like any decision I make at this point will be one for the dumb side of the scale.
Should I stay?
Should I run?
Should I hide in the bushes before he comes back outside with handcuffs and a knife?
Before I have a chance to run, his front door swings open and he comes back outside with a full bottle of water. This time the sun is behind me, so I don’t have to struggle so hard to see him. That’s not a good thing, either, since all I want to do is stare at him.
Ugh! I absolutely hate lust.
Every fiber of my being knows he’s not a good person, yet my body doesn’t seem to give a shit at all.
He hands me the bottle and I quickly down another drink. I hate Texas heat as it is, but coupled with Dean Holder, it feels like I’m standing in the pits of Hell.
“So…earlier? At the store?” he says with a nervous pause. “If I made you uneasy, I’m sorry.”
My lungs are begging me for air, but I somehow find a way to reply. “You didn’t make me uneasy.”
You sort of creeped me out.
Holder narrows his eyes at me for a few seconds, studying me. I’ve discovered today that I don’t like being studied…I like going unnoticed. “I wasn’t trying to hit on you, either,” he says. “I just thought you were someone else.”
“It’s fine.” I force a smile, but it’s not fine. Why am I suddenly consumed with disappointment that he wasn’t trying to hit on me? I should be happy.
“Not that I wouldn’t hit on you,” he adds with a grin. “I just wasn’t doing it at that particular moment.”
Oh, thank you, Jesus. His clarification makes me smile, despite all my efforts not to.
“Want me to run with you?” he asks, nudging his head toward the sidewalk behind me.
“No, it’s fine.”
He nods. “Well, I was going that way anyway. I run twice a day and I’ve still got a couple…” He stops speaking mid sentence and takes a quick step toward me. He grabs my chin and tilts my head back. “Who did this to you?” The same hardness I saw in his eyes at the grocery store returns behind his scowl. “Your eye wasn’t like this earlier.”
I pull my chin away
Kit Tunstall, R. E. Saxton