Read Just me Online

Authors: L.A. Fiore

Just me

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Just Me

Just Me

L.A. Fiore

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2015, L. A. Fiore

All rights reserved.

This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.

ISBN-13: 978-1500224882

ISBN-10: 150022488X

Cover photo by Karen Smutz ofwww.karensmutzphotography.com

Cover design by Indie Solutions by Murphy Rae, www.murphyrae.net

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Chapter One

Laughter echoed through the house, so carefree a sound, and yet it sliced through me like a knife, forcing my eyes closed as I absorbed the pain of my reality: I wasn't wanted here.

My mother died, and not from something as tragic as cancer or a car crash, but from her excessive lifestyle. There were times when I thought the suddenness of a car accident would have been better than having to watch her die slowly nine years ago as her liver failed from hepatitis. Holding her hand tightly in mine, I believed that I could keep her with me through sheer will alone. When she told me I was going to be living with her sister’s family—my Aunt Kim and Uncle Eddie—I didn't really understand what she was saying. Three days later, when I stood in the room that would become my bedroom, it still hadn't sunk in that this was my life now. A visit with them would have been fun, but how would I adapt to living there forever?

It wasn't like my life with my mom had been a Hallmark movie—Mom had vices and she loved indulging them. I was the one who had to clean her up, feed her, get her into bed, but that had been my life and I was used to it. My aunt and uncle were both responsible working adults—I no longer needed to make dinner, nor did I need to check the house after mom fell asleep to make sure she didn't leave a cigarette burning somewhere.

The first Saturday after I moved in was the Fourth of July, and for that day I was pulled into the joy of just being a kid. I can still remember the smell of chicken and hamburgers grilling, can still feel the stickiness of the watermelon juice as it dripped down my chin when I bit into it. Pearl River, the small town in New York where my uncle and aunt lived, hosted an annual parade complete with marching bands and floats. When the sun went down and the stars lit the night sky, the fireworks started. I remember the fireworks the most: sitting around the grassy town square with my aunt, uncle and cousins smiling up at the lights burning across that navy-blue canvas.

For just a moment, I thought maybe this family could really be mine. Later that night while I helped Uncle Eddie unpack our picnic hamper, he told me how much I reminded him of a younger version of my mom: the person she had been before she let her demons rule her. It was in that moment that my aunt walked in. The warm smile, that had been on her face all day, was replaced with an odd look. I hadn't given much thought to the encounter at the time. It was only later when I realized her look signified the end of any hope I had had for a happy family life.

I was seventeen, a senior, and next year I would be going off to college. My aunt was practically rabid about that, the idea of me going, just an unpleasant blotch in what she considered her perfect little world. She had plans to redecorate my room, had already consulted an interior designer to discuss the media room she wanted for the girls. He'd been to the house several times already with books that he and my aunt poured over in the dining room discussing new paint colors, new floors, new furniture: effectively erasing any reminder of me. With the twins, Deena and Carol, only just beginning high school next year, my aunt would have four years of biological-family bliss.

Dwelling on the unpleasant was pointless. I reached for my backpack, and as I did almost every time I passed it, my eyes moved to the print of the bronze sculpture,Mother and Child, by world-renowned artist David Cambre. I loved all of David's work, but this piece was my favorite: the smooth lines of the bronze connecting mother to child as if the mother was offering both independence and protection to her babe.

My cousins were obviously excited about the new school year since they were up early. Deena, Carol and Aunt Kim were sharing French toast and laughing over stories as I entered the kitchen. The affection between them was undeniable and I winced at the pang of jealousy that washed over me. Why couldn't I have that? Why couldn't I have what the mother in David's sculpture offered to her child? I told myself it didn't matter and reached for an apple on my way to the door.

“Goodbye,” I said.

Deena and Carol both looked up at me as I passed, “Have a good day, Larkspur.” They were sweet girls and I knew they loved me, but they were hesitant around me. Their mom didn't like me and they both knew it. There were times that they were contrary and were overly nice to me because of it, but I had the sense that the girls were a little afraid of their mom, so those times were few and far between.

Aunt Kim, as usual, ignored me completely.

It was September, the first day of school, and the bus didn't come into my aunt and uncle's neighborhood. The stop closest to them was in the wrong direction, so I'd taken to walking. I didn't mind it when the weather was okay, because the exercise was good for me, but once winter kicked in, I'd need to make arrangements for a ride.

Poppy and Shawn, my friends since grade school, could always be counted on for that. They were dating, and had been since sophomore year. It was because of this that I didn't hitch a ride during the warmer months, since they liked “time alone” before school started. Sophia, the fourth in our close-knit group, and I were always teasing them, but I knew, at least in my case, a bit of envy fed my teasing.

I've dated, but I never made a connection to someone like the one Poppy and Shawn shared. I didn't exude the preppy, perky vibe, nor was I good at making meaningless small talk. I couldn't ask a question of someone merely to ask it and not be at all interested in the answer. I found their insincerity, of those I've tried dating, annoying.

As I reached school, the sprawling single-level brick structure loomed before me. The huge campus had sports fields across the back span, as far as the eyes could see. The football stadium, which brought the community out en masse during football season, was nestled off to the left. Cement pathways, lined with trees, and the student and teacher parking lots dominated the front of the building. As pretty of a picture as it made, it was still school, and students meandered slowly toward the double glass doors.

Starting through the student parking lot, I noticed, as was tradition, the football players and cheerleaders all got the really great spots up front—their cars were all foreign and expensive—while the other students, and their less than perfect cars, were forced to park in the back. This was an unspoken rule of the school. There were a few brave souls, with their less than perfect cars, who had attempted to change the status quo and were rewarded with their cars being decorated with trash. It was a blatant, yet effective, deterrent since the anonymity of the threat kept people from reporting it.

It was while I walked toward the entrance of school that I heard a motorcycle coming down the drive. I gave myself a moment to appreciate the fine curves of the Harley as well as those of the rider. He wore a black t-shirt stretched across the muscles of his chest and shoulders, but it was the full sleeves of tattoos down his arms that held me captivated. I couldn't see the designs, but the colors took my breath away. As he approached I noticed the black, well-worn boots on his feet and the faded jeans snug across the muscles of his thighs.

He parked right in the front, to the bewildered and annoyed glances of the popular crowd, before he climbed from his bike: that movement causing a beautiful play on his muscles. He lifted off his helmet revealing what I had only caught a glimpse of—long, inky-black hair that brushed his very impressive shoulders.

He was the most beautiful boy I'd ever seen even frommydistance. A face of all angles with his cheekbones curving into the hard line of his jaw, full lips, and eyes a color somewhere between blue and green: fringed by thick, long, black lashes. My fingers itched to sketch him.

A glance at the cheerleaders, flipping their hair and giggling, confirmed my suspicion that I wasn't the only one to find him eye-popping, tongue-dropping gorgeous. It was just as well. I pulled up my hoodie and lowered my head. Turning up my iPod, I walked past the hot boy and headed into the building.

***

“Have you seen him?” Sophia asked breathlessly as she practically pinned me to my locker. “I think I'm in love. He's yummy.”

“Yes, I've seen him.” I couldn’t help but grin, because Sophia thought herself in love at least four times a week. The problem was, she was also fickle, and so anything could cause her to fall out of love. At the end of last year Danny Keener was the love of her life. Her crush on him lasted two months until one day he showed up to school wearing a yellow polo shirt and just like that, her heart moved on. I didn't get it, but then Sophia was a bit odd, which was one of the many reasons I loved her. I did as a dutiful friend would and ate ice cream with her and watched romantic comedies until she pulled herself from her self-induced funk at yet another relationship failure.

“Well, the Cheers saw him too, so I'm guessing by lunch they'll all be fast friends.” I couldn't help the notes of bitterness in my tone. Grabbing my books and shutting my locker, I headed to homeroom.

After morning announcements, I dragged my feet down the hall to English Literature and took a seat in the back of the class. I pulled out my notebook and started to sketch. Students had gotten their class assignments a few weeks ago and as I did every year, I avoided learning who I shared classes with until school actually started, so I wouldn't stew about it over summer break. Seeing Kira and Mica, I groaned out loud, it was because of them I had that rule.

Why the groan? Because they were mean girls, and looked the part—exceedingly beautiful with long corn silk blond hair and big, bright blue eyes. They had the figures too: long, lean, and willowy. Physically, the artist in me thought they were lovely, until they opened their mouths and then the ugliness became very evident.

As it was with their whole group, they scanned the classroom to see who was in their midst. Anyone they deemed cool, they smiled to and giggled at and anyone currently on their bash list got the eye—the evil eye. I saw very little smiling coming from Kira, but it was Mica's expression that interested me, because it seemed so out of character. Not only wasn't she glaring at people, she looked rather meek as she stood behind Kira staring only at her books. Could it be she had learned at last that her treatment of people was wrong? I wouldn't have believed her capable of empathy, but people did change.

A few minutes later I lifted my head again when I heard Kira—her voice sounded like nails down a chalkboard—calling to someone. It washim. I actually felt my body break out into a cold sweat as my heart seemed to triple its rhythm.

He was tall, maybe six-three, and he moved with the easy but deliberate grace of a panther. I had to agree with Sophia. He was altogether yummy, and then he smiled and I felt my world tilt on its axis. He wasn't smiling at me, but if he ever unleashed that megawatt smile in my direction, I think I would very likely melt.

It shouldn't have been a surprise to see him take the seat next to Kira right up front, since she was by far, the most beautiful girl in school, but I still felt the pang of disappointment. Not even he was immune to Kira's charms and that knocked him off the pedestal his body and face almost demanded he be on.

Mrs. MacIntosh entered the classroom, so I slipped my notebook into my backpack and pulled my ear buds from my ears. I left the hoodie up, but that didn't last long when Mrs. MacIntosh speared me with her black eyes.

“Larkspur.”

She didn't need to say anything more, and while I was pushing my hoodie down, my gaze caught a turquoise one. The sight of the new boy looking directly at me had my heart lodging into my throat. He stared, really longer than was polite, and I noticed the slight grin that tugged at the corner of his mouth before he turned back around. What the hell was that smile about?

My hands shook as I reached for my pencil, so I tried for a few calming breaths—in through my nose and out my mouth. It took five long minutes to get my nerves under control. No, that had never happened to me before: so visceral a reaction to someone. Wasn't it just my luck that when I did feel it, it was for someone who was going to have a line of girls waiting at his locker by the end of the day.

Mrs. MacIntosh took roll call and I had to stop myself from leaning forward, in all eagerness, to hear his name. She said Sebastian Ross right before the deep timbre of his voice filled the silence. “Here.”

Larkspur Ross. It had a nice ring to it and our children—black-haired, blue/green eyes—would be beautiful. What I was thinking was so not me, I actually laughed out loud.

“Care to share with everyone what you find so funny, Miss O’Bannion?” I had drawn the attention of everyone in the room, including Mrs. MacIntosh.

“No, thank you.”

“Do you think you can keep your amusement to yourself?”

My eyes met those teal ones again and I couldn't help my smirk at the ridiculousness of my thoughts, but I forced my focus back to the teacher. “I will endeavor to keep my humor to myself.”

“See that you do.”

He was like a train wreck, or maybe a display of free chocolate, since I couldn't stop looking at him. This time when I did, I saw the grin again, which was rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, flirting over his very sexy mouth. The sight of it pulled another smile from me as I lowered my head. If he only knew what was making me laugh, he wouldn't be grinning at me, but running away, as far and as fast as possible. And that thought almost had me laughing out loud again.

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