My Skylar(9)

By: Penelope Ward

It was really foggy out, and I had to pick a direction. I chose left because it was toward her house.

After a few minutes of running, I was almost ready to turn around. That was when I noticed her stopped further down the road. When she heard me approaching, she turned around. I slowed down and was out of breath when I finally caught up to her.

“You always could run like hell.” When she didn’t say anything, I continued, “I didn’t expect to see you tonight.”

She looked up at the sky and let out a single sarcastic laugh. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”

She was so pretty.

My heart was pounding. “I guess you’re right.” I was really taken aback by how different she looked. Long, wavy auburn hair wet from the drizzly rain replaced the two braids I remembered she always wore. She was still petite but definitely wasn’t a little girl anymore. I was all too aware of that.

Even though it was dark, the streetlights shined on her face, illuminating her green eyes. She was waiting for me to speak, but I was too busy studying her.

She broke my stare when she said, “This is the part where you open your mouth and say something. Maybe explain why you never called or wrote to me. Maybe explain why you show up five years later screwing some whore at a party on my turf.”

“Whoa…wait. I wasn’t screwing her,” I said defensively. It bothered me how much I needed her to know that.

“It’s none of my business anyway. I—”

“I wasn’t going to have sex with her,” I said with my eyes peering into hers.

“Fine. TMI. Like I said, it’s none of my business.”

“I don’t like the way you’re looking at me right now,” I said.

“How am I looking at you?”

“Like you’re disappointed in me.”

Why the fuck did it matter so much what this girl thought of me? It shouldn’t have, but it did. It was why I had waited in the first place to tell her I was back here.

She closed her eyes and sighed. Her expression softened. “I’m just a little shocked to see you, okay?”

“I know. I’m sorry.” I let out a deep breath before telling her, “I live here now, Skylar.”

“What? Since when?”

“Since last week.”

“I don’t understand…”

“My mother lost her job and has really been strapped for cash over the past year. Since my grandmother moved to Florida and owns her old house outright, she offered it to us so that we could live rent-free. My Dad doesn’t give a shit about what we do anymore. So, we moved.”

“How did I not see you move in?”

“We didn’t have a truck or anything. The house is all furnished. We drove up half our stuff a week ago and go back for the rest next weekend.”

“You’ve been living across the street from me for a week?”

I looked down at the ground unsure of how to explain why I hadn’t gone to see her. The truth was, I was scared. That little girl I left behind had meant so much to me. The thought of her and memories of the conversations during our basketball games got me through many difficult nights. I didn’t want to find out that she had changed or worse, that she would be disappointed in how I turned out. I knew seeing her again would be inevitable, but each day, I put it off.

“I promise you. I was going to come by soon.”

She started to shiver and didn’t have a jacket. I took off my hoodie and put it around her arms.

“Thanks,” she said.

Several quiet seconds passed. “Let me walk you home.”

“I should call Angie.”

She walked a few feet away so I couldn’t hear the conversation then returned to the spot where I was standing.

“She said Cody is taking her home.”

“Is that the tall dude?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“That guy sounds like he swallowed his own balls.”

When she burst out laughing, my tense body finally relaxed. The sweet sound of her familiar laugh made me smile. For the first time tonight, it had felt like old times.

“What about your girlfriend? You just left her there.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” I was quick to say. “Ava is a girl I just met at school this week. She asked me to go to the party with her, and I said yes, but I really didn’t want to come.”

“You left the door cracked open upstairs. From what I saw, it looked like you really wanted to come tonight.”

Well, shit. There was the wise mouth I remembered. But now that she was older, it was dirty, too. And that intrigued me. But I wished she hadn’t seen me making out with Ava because it really didn’t mean anything.

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