At that moment, the French doors in my room blew open with a gust of sudden, cool wind.
“Hang on, Dad.” I jumped off the bed and ran to the doors to peek outside.
A steady force of wind caressed my bare arms and legs. I leaned over the railing and took inventory of leaves flapping in the gust and garbage cans rolling away. The smell of lilacs wafted through my doors from the trees that peppered our street, Fall Away Lane.
A storm was seconds away, and electricity filled the air with anticipation. Chills ran over my skin, not from cold, but from the thrill of a storm brewing. I loved summer rain.
"Hey, Dad,” I interrupted him as he was speaking to someone in the background, "I need to let you go. I think a storm is on its way, and I should go check all of the windows. Talk to you tomorrow?” I rubbed my arms to erase the chill.
“Sure, honey. I have to run anyway. Just remember that the pistol is in the entryway table. Call if you need anything. Love you."
“Love you too, Dad. Talk to you tomorrow,” I called out behind me.
Closing the laptop, I shrugged into my black Seether hoodie and opened the doors in my room again. Studying the tree outside, my brain snapped to unbidden memories of the many times I’d sat in that tree to enjoy the rain. I had shared many of those times with Jared…when we were still friends.
Quickly looking up, I took note that his window was closed, with no light to speak of coming from his house that sat less than ten yards away. With the tree acting as a ladder between our bedroom windows, it always seemed like the houses were connected in a way.
During my year away, I had fought the urge to ask K.C. about him. Even after everything he’d done, part of me still missed that boy that was my waking thought and constant companion as a kid. But that Jared was gone now. In his place was a sour, hateful douchebag that had no regard for me.
Shutting and locking the French doors, I pulled the sheer, black curtains closed. Moments later, the sky opened up with a crack, and the rain let loose.
Awakened later that night, my brain unable to ignore the thunder and thrashing of the tree against the house, I flipped on my bedside light and crept to the doors to check out the storm. I caught the sight of headlights speeding dangerously down the street. I tilted my head as far to the side as I could and caught the view of a black Boss 302 charging its way into Jared’s driveway.
The car fishtailed slightly before jetting out of my sight into the garage. It was a new car model with a thick, red racing stripe running down the length of the car. I had never seen it before. Last I knew Jared had a motorcycle and a Mustang GT, so that car could’ve been anyone’s.
Maybe I had a new neighbor?
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that possibility.
On the other hand, that car would totally have been Jared’s taste.
After a minute or so, a dim light fell across my floor with the illumination coming from Jared’s room. I caught the sight of a dark figure moving behind his blinds. My fingers started to tingle, making them too weak to curl.
Trying to refocus my attention on the fantastical display of wind and curtains of rain, my heart jumped at the sound of Jared’s blinds lifting up and the wash of light spilling between our two houses.I narrowed my eyes as I saw Jared lift up his window and lean out into the night storm.
He appeared to be observing the spectacle, same as me. I could barely make out his face through the dense spatter of leaves, but I knew when he noticed me. His arms stiffened as he supported himself on the windowsill, and his head was bowed in my direction, unmoving. I could almost picture those chocolate brown eyes piercing me.
He didn't wave or nod. Why would he? Absence wasn't going to make his heart grow fonder—clearly. Dread and apprehension used to plague me when this guy was around, but now....I felt a strange mixture of nervousness and anticipation.
I slowly backed up to close and secure the doors. The last thing I wanted was to trip and give away the emotions boiling under my calm exterior. During my time away, I’d thought about Jared, but I hadn’t dwelled on him, figuring that time and distance would cool him off.
Perhaps that prediction was too hopeful.
And maybe I wasn’t as bothered by his shit anymore.
“So, have you seen him yet?” K.C. leaned on the frame of my double doors looking over towards Jared’s house. I didn’t have to ask who she was referring to.
“No…well, yes. Kind of. I saw a pretty severe looking Boss charging into his garage late last night. Would that be him?” I didn’t want to tell K.C. about seeing him at the window. Hoping to have a couple of days’ reprieve before we came face to face, I was trying to hang on to the calm I’d achieved during my year away.
I continued to sort through the clothes in my suitcase, picking out what needed to be hung up and what needed to be washed.
“Yep. He traded in the GT shortly after you left and bought that. I guess he’s been making a name for himself racing out at the Loop.”
My fingers clenched the hanger tightly at her words. Disappointment coursed through me as I realized that things had changed in the year I’d been gone. When we were younger, Jared and I had dreamed of putting a car together for the Loop.
“It’s a hot car.” I hated to admit it.
Jared used to work with my dad and me in our garage fixing up my dad’s old Chevy Nova. We were both eager students and appreciated the mastery it took to get a car in prime condition.
“In any case,” I continued, “with racing and his job, I just hope he’s too busy to get in my face this year.” I circulated the room putting things away, but my brain throbbed with annoyance.