A shadow loomed over me, and my heart clenched with dread. Placing down my pen and gripping the edges of my notebook, I rolled my eyes up.
“Olivia Fernandez,” my history teacher, Mrs. Anderson, said. She drummed her long fingernails on my desk. A shiver rolled down my spine at the clicking sound they made.
“Hey, there.” I forced a smile and gulped. And as I was about to clutch my notebook to my chest, she reached out and caught the edge of it. Curses.
Mrs. Anderson tugged at it, but I held tight. She gritted her teeth and drew down her eyebrows, letting go. “Hand it over, Olivia,” she said, holding out her hand with the palm turned upward.
“I’m afraid I can’t.” I hugged my notebook to my chest. A few in class snickered.
“I believe you can.” She stood there in her denim button down and her usual long khaki skirt, staring me down.
“Listen, this is private. I can’t relinquish it to you.” Figured if I threw out a good vocab word, she’d budge a bit. But nope.
“Every single day, all you do is draw in your notebook. This needs to stop.” She raised her brows and stared straight into my eyes. It was quite unnerving.
“And why?” As my mom called it, my sass started to surface.
“Class participation is ten percent of your grade.” She looked at everyone else in the room. A few nodded, and they all intently watched Mrs. Anderson and me.
“But without it, I’m still passing.”
“That is not a good attitude to have.”
“Well, you know.” I shrugged. Not the first time someone told me that.
“I think you need to take a trip down to the security office.” We had quite the large school, so the principal couldn’t discipline us all, so we had a special office just for that.
“Seriously?” The last time I got sent down there, Chris, the head of security, told me that I’d get a Saturday detention if he saw me in there again. Three hours in school on the weekend, no thank you.
“If you’re not handing me your notebook, you will give it to them down there, Miss Fernandez.” Just the last name. She meant business. With my mom it was different. She used the whole name, Olivia Consuelo Fernandez. Named for my two grandmas—my Busia Olivia from my Polish half, and my Lola Consuelo from my Filipino half.
“All right,” I said. Mrs. Anderson liked to read things out loud, so I choose the security office over her because I so didn’t need her reading the notes I included with my drawings. Justin Westmont, the guy sitting in front of me, would’ve died of embarrassment. Also, talk about invasion of privacy.
“Off you go then.” She shooed at the air with her hand. “Ridge.”
Ridge Harper looked over his shoulder, cocking a reddish-brown eyebrow at Mrs. Anderson.
“Please hold the other end of this notebook and escort Miss Fernandez down to the security office.”
Ridge puckered his lips like a fish and blinked.
“Now, Ridge.” Mrs. Anderson stood with her hands on her hips and her thin red lips smooshed together. Besides her love for denim and khaki, she also loved herself some red lipstick which always matched her nails.
“Yeah, yeah, okay.” As he stood up, his desk scooted around on the ground before he pulled out his inhumanly long legs from underneath—he never quite seemed to know how to remove himself from the desk. With his hands jammed in his jeans pockets, he bounced up to the front of the classroom almost skipping.
“Go, you two.” Mrs. Anderson shook her head and sighed.
My notebook—clamped in my hands—and I went up front and stood next to Ridge. Everybody in class laughed and watched the mess that the two of us were.
Ridge scratched above his top lip with his finger. “So. Uh. Yeah. The notebook.”
I looked over at Mrs. Fernandez. “For real?”
“Yes, Olivia. Now go.”
As I held up my notebook, Ridge grabbed the end of it almost yoinking it from me. I took hold of it and pulled him out of the classroom.
“Really, you can let go,” I said as we got into the hall.
“Nope. Mrs. Anderson told me to hold on to the end of your notebook, so that’s what I’m doing.”
“Do you always do what you’re told?” I looked up at his face, freckles danced all across his nose and cheeks, a few spreading up to his forehead.
Ridge ignored my question. “Why couldn’t you just give her your notebook?”
“I have my reasons.”
“Were you doing that thing where you write your name with the last name of your crush?”
“What? Dude, you watch too many movies.”
Ridge smiled and shrugged his thin shoulders. He wore a long-sleeved, plaid shirt that just fit. The edge of it skimmed the top of his jeans, and his white T-shirt hung out underneath.
“Are you enjoying this?” I asked.
“Not really. What’s there to enjoy? I’d much prefer to be in class learning something.” And I believe he was for real.
“Stop smiling,” I said.
“Stop being mean,” he said.
“I am not mean.” Perhaps I was, but I didn’t like when someone called me out on it.
Ridge attempted to blow raspberries with his lip. His messy bangs blew around in his breath from his failed raspberry, but he still conveyed what he wanted to.
“The office.” Ridge jerked his chin toward the door where I needed to go.
“Okay, so bye.”
He smiled and shook his head. “I must escort you,” he sang in an opera-like voice.
“Whatever, let’s go,” I said, pulling him with me. We entered the office side by side, each holding an end of my red, spiral notebook.
Neil, the receptionist behind the desk, smiled up at us. “What can I do you two for?”
“She’s supposed to see Mr. Chris.” Ridge held up his end of the notebook.
Neil raised an eyebrow at Ridge, and Ridge raised both of his back and bugged his eyes a bit. The front office and I got together quite often due to my personality and tendency to not arrive to class on time, so over the years, I had learned a lot about Neil through my observations. His cat, Pumpkin, was one of his favorite people in the world, and yes, I say, people, because he considered pets as people. Every few months he switched out Pumpkin’s picture in the frame near his computer.
“Hey, you don’t have a speaking role in this,” I said to Ridge.
He smiled and bobbed his head.
“You can go now, Mr. Harper,” Neil said.
“I’m supposed to hold the end of her notebook and not let go.” Ridge stood up straight. I didn’t realize how much he slouched when he walked until he got exponentially taller than me. “See.” Ridge wiggled my notebook.
“I’m sure it’s safe to let go now.” Neil pointed toward the door.
Ridge bobbed his head but still gripped my notebook.
“Dude, let go,” I said.
“Can I like stay?” Ridge asked.
“What is wrong with you?” Seriously, who wants to stay in the front office for fun?
Ridge’s face dropped, and he let go. “Nobody quite knows.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
He ran his hand through his unmaintained hair and sauntered out.
“Okay, so now what can I do ya for?” Neil clasped his hands together and glanced at his computer screen.
“I wouldn’t turn over my notebook to my teacher.”
He tapped his chin with a pen. “I’m guessing you weren’t paying attention, doodling or something.”
“Yep,” I said. Neil was pretty darn friendly, but he didn’t need to know the whole story. My notebook and its innards are to be known to very few—me and more than likely Mr. Chris in a short time.
And about ten minutes later, I sat across the desk from the yellow sweater-clad Mr. Chris, while I held my notebook to my chest.
“Just hand it to me.” Chris smiled at me. He had yet to learn that smiles didn’t work on me.
“Don’t you need a search warrant or something?”
“I’m just sticking it in my drawer here.”
“Fine, Jebus. Look, I just didn’t want to embarrass Justin Westmont.” I placed my notebook on the desk in front of him.
He started flipping through it. All my recent life and school observations before his eyes.
“Hey,” I said.
“These drawings are nice.” He kept flipping through the pages, occasionally pausing.
“Thank you.” I glanced down at my hands folded in my lap, tawny skin and faint blue lines from my veins. Sitting like that I thought it showed a bit of compliance because otherwise I’d slouch back and as my mom said, “Ruin my posture.”
“But probably not what you’re supposed to be doing in class.” He rubbed one hand over his balding head and flipped the pages with his other.
“Probably not.” I sat a bit straighter in the almost comfortable chair and took in all the potted plants he had crammed into his small office. Maybe he wanted to increase the brain cells of the students who got sent to him.
“Now, want to tell me which drawing is of Justin Westmont?” He flipped a few more pages and landed on the page with my rendering of Justin flicking his booger, along with a little note I wrote.
“Dude, it’s called a tissue,” Mr. Chris read. He then tilted his head and studied my drawing a bit more. He closed my notebook and handed it back to me. “Pick a number.”
“Um, three?” I generally went with three regarding numbers. The three Fernandez girls, and lucky me, born between the other two, the middle child. My older sister, Morgan, always told me I suffered middle child syndrome. Said I had an extreme case.
“You now have three detentions after school starting today.”
“So no Saturday?”
“I could throw one in there if you want.”
“I’m good, thanks.”
“Pay attention in class and listen to your teacher. Be respectful.”
“Um, okay, so you’re not tricking me? You said this is going to go in your drawer.” I clung to my notebook, planning on making a run for it if he told me I had to hand it back to him.
“No. Just pay attention.”
“Will do.” Now what I said and what I did were two different things.
“Should I apologize?” I asked. My best friend Vern drove us home from school. We rotated weeks when it came to driving. Oskegan, IL went by outside my window. A flat, non-exciting place to live. And I got blessed with living there my whole life.
“For what?” Vern glanced in my direction with her light blue eyes outlined in thick black eyeliner and buried in mascara.
“Just thinking out loud.”
“Now you have to tell me.”
I pulled my black-brown hair out of my ponytail and ran a hand through it. “To Ridge.”
I further explained my experience in the front office.
“Wow, that wasn’t very nice of you.” Vern looked like you’d find her around a bonfire reciting incantations with her all black wardrobe and dark makeup, but she had a soul as sweet as pie.
“Nice isn’t a word often used to describe me.” I shook my hair and massaged my scalp with my fingertips. It felt good to take my hair down on occasion. Due to my laziness and not caring what my hair looked like, I usually kept it pulled up into a ponytail.
“Yes, it is. Okay, maybe not all the time. Sometimes, you just let your mouth run amuck. But you might want to say something to him. I know he’s perceived to be sorta odd, but that’s not a reason to be mean to him.”
“The dude is straight up weird.” Ridge singing operatically came to mind.
Vern smiled. “He’s just different.”
“If that’s what you want to call it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being weird, and I don’t see how he’s all that weird.”
“I’ve seen him talking to himself while running in circles. Just yesterday in between fourth and fifth period. I even stood there a while and watched him.”
“And?” Vern turned down Route 59, and we passed a large hardware store where my mom and dad bought supplies to make my little sister Bailey her first ballet bar when she was four.
“And he’s like always smiling.” Granted he did have good teeth, but I didn’t trust people that smiled that much. I bet he had something to hide.
“I think you don’t clearly understand the definition of weird, and he has a cute smile.”
“Do you have a class with him?” I asked.
“I did last year, and he’s really nice.” Vern gave me a nod, her version of a final answer.
“You think everyone is nice.”
My stomach growled. “And you’re stopping so we can get sandwiches.”
As we sat in an orange booth inside Hey! Make Me a Sandwich, I planted my hands flat on the somewhat sticky table as something dawned on me. “Oh, man.”
“What?” Vern shoved the last of her ham and Swiss into her mouth. Seventies disco music played from those speakers you find in the ceiling.
“I’m supposed to be in detention.”
“Yeah, oh man.”
“Drive me back to school.” I shoved the rest of my sandwich into my face and washed it down with some pop. One can never waste a good sandwich.
“Olivia, detention is probably over by now.” Vern folder her sandwich wrapper up into a neat little square and wiped her hands with a napkin.
“Please, please. I need my Saturday mornings to sleep.” I knew if I came in late to detention I would get another detention, and once you got so many detentions they rolled over in Saturday morning breakfast club—aka Saturday morning detention—the teachers at our school thought they were so witty and cool.
“You are very cat-like.”
“Yes, we need our sleep.”
“You owe me.”
As Vern pulled up to the front doors of our school, I jumped out and dashed into the building, showing my ID in the front office. Detention still had about ten minutes left, so I figured, maybe if I snuck in, nobody would notice that I had just got there. When I went to pull the door to the classroom open, someone behind me said, “Hey.”
I turned around and there stood Ridge, bouncing on his toes.
“Hey. Listen, about earlier,” I said, figuring I could say what I needed to quick, seeing that I was already way late.
“What about it?” His brown eyes looked at me for a second before they flicked down to the floor.
“What I said.”
“You said lots of things.” He shrugged and bit his bottom lip.
I wrung my hands together. “The, what’s wrong with you thing.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He waved his hand in the air like he swatted something away.
“You messing with me?”
“We’re all peachy, okay?”
Ridge pointed at the detention room door. “And don’t go in there.”
“Earlier I saw you weren’t in there, so I went in and told Mrs. Jenkins that there was a mix-up, and you’d start serving your detention tomorrow.” Ridge shrugged like he saved people from detention troubles every day.
“How did you know I had detention?”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“Are you like stalking me?”
“Nope.” A grin crept across his face.
“Okay.” I leaned over and looked through the window in the classroom door. Everyone pretty much looked comatose, and Mrs. Jenkins had her face buried in a book.
“You’re not going in there. Pew. Pew.” He pretended to shoot at the door with what I assumed to be laser fingers.
“Why did you tell her there was a mix-up?” I asked.
“So you wouldn’t get in more trouble.”
“What are you even doing here, and why are you checking out the detention classroom?” Oh God, maybe he really was stalking me.
“I tutor our fellow classmates after school, and one had detention, so I went in there to do our tutoring session.” A relief.
“See, not stalking you.” He might’ve have had telepathy. “Your friend Vern said something to Michael Hayes, and Michael Hayes mentioned it during P.E.” Okay, so not telepathic.
“Okay. Well, thanks again.”
“But hey, do you need some tutoring?” Ridge cocked an eyebrow at me.
“What? No.” Not once have I ever mentioned I needed a tutor.
“You should see yourself take a test.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You look like this.” Ridge stuck his arms straight out and made like he gripped the edge of something in his hands and bugged his eyes and pressed his lips together.
“No, I don’t.”
Ridge nodded. “You do.”
“Sometimes I get a bit anxious when I take tests.” Not too long ago, I didn’t do so bad on tests, but when junior year hit, my test scores took a plunge.
“Classic case of test anxiety.”
“You.” He pointed a long finger at me.
“Okay, I have to get back out to my friend. Hopefully, she hasn’t left yet.” I zipped my jacket up and adjusted my backpack on my shoulders. He didn’t need to know that Vern had already left, said she’d come back for me.
“I’ll walk with you.”
“I was going that direction anyway.”
“I said I’m good.”
“Well, walking in that direction anyway.” Talk about persistent.
“So what happened with your notebook?” Ridge asked. He then stopped at a locker. “Here it is. My locker. It’s a beaut, isn’t it? Need my coat.”
“I have to get going.”
“So, is it medically diagnosed?” he asked over his shoulder, unlocking his lock.
“Your lack of a sense of humor.”
“You’re so funny. Har. Har.”
“I am. So with the notebook?” Ridge asked.
“Well, you know,” I said.
“Yes, you got detention, but anything else? I heard somebody say that they heard you started a rumble with Mrs. Anderson.” Ridge took his coat out from his locker and slipped it on. It looked like he was about to go arctic exploring with the blue fluffy thing he put on. He then pulled up the hood and zippered his jacket all the way to his nose, so just some pinkish white skin with freckles and eyes showed. My gray waist length coat suddenly felt light and insufficient on me, and I knew the second that I stepped outside the wind would rip right through it.
“I bet you heard nobody say that. I’m quite certain you’re the only person alive who would use the word rumble.”
“Okay, perhaps, but they did say you tried to attack her.” He punched at the air with his fists and then reached into his locker one more time, pulling out a bike helmet and handing it to me.
“Are you serious?”
“With? Hold that.” He turned toward me looking like a periscope searching for something on the horizon and locked his locker.
I didn’t question him and held the black and green helmet he handed me. “What you just said. Somebody actually said that?”
“Yeah. You think I’d just make that up?”
“I really don’t know what to think of you, Ridge.”
“You should think mighty highly of me.”
I had no response besides a head shake, this guy. He walked alongside me, in the slump I’d seen him walk with, and smiled at nothing.
We went out the double doors at the main entrance, and he put his hand on my shoulder. “You should think about that tutoring.”
“Okay, yeah.” I had no intentions to think about it. I just wanted him to shut him up.
“So, where’s your friend?” Ridge asked. I handed him back his bike helmet.
“Not here.” My phone buzzed in my backpack, and I knew it was Vern because I just remembered that she had to take her sister Mary to soccer practice. She drove her sisters to so many things—she tended to get them mixed up or forget. She could’ve benefited from some organization.
“C’mon, I’ll give you a ride home.”
“It’s fine. I can walk.” My house wasn’t far, but my freezing cheeks (top and bottom) told me the walk would feel much longer in the cold.
“If that’s what you wish.”
“Oh, c’mon.” He grabbed my wrist and wiggled my arm.
He dropped my arm and sighed. “All right, go on. I won’t subject you to me anymore.”
“You’re just trying to make me feel bad. Aren’t you?”
“Is it working?” His mouth raised up into half of a grin.
“Not at all.”
“All right, see you later then.” He turned and wiggled his fingers over his shoulder at me, leaving me standing on the steps outside the school doors. And due to his long legs, he made it to the bike racks in like three steps.
My nostrils started to freeze shut, and I kind of regretted not accepting Ridge’s invitation for a ride, but I didn’t even have a chance to pout about it because I watched him unlocking a bike.
“Cold, huh?” Ridge hugged his arms around himself and pretended to shiver as he climbed onto his bike. “So you want that ride?”
“Are you joking?” I took in Ridge sitting on the BMX bike, his knees almost in his ears.
“Your ride is a bike.”
“Oh my gosh, it is.” Ridge dropped his mouth open and slapped his hands on either side of his face.
“You don’t offer people a ride home on your bike.”
“Why not?” He tipped his head and blinked his eyes looking like he wanted to honestly know why.
“I might as well just walk.”
“Why? I have snow tires on my bike and two pegs in the back for you to stand on. You are not wearing proper footwear for this weather.”
I looked down at my canvas Chucks. Okay, so he had me on that one. “Fine.”
Ridge smiled and held out the helmet. “Don’t worry, no lice.” He unhooked another helmet he had hanging from his handlebars, pushed back his hood, and put his helmet on, zippering his coat back up around it.
I shook my head at him and put on the helmet, then stepped up onto the pegs on the back of his bike.
“Lean into me and grab my shoulders.”
I didn’t imagine my day ending with way too much body contact with Ridge Harper. My face stung from the wind, and my hair kept blowing into my mouth, but his body did keep the rest of me protected and warm.
“Turn here,” I said, leaning in and talking into his ear, which felt too intimate, so I made sure to straighten up and then yelled the rest of the directions. He rode along the side of the road, cars passing on our left every now and again. And his stamina surprised me. He pedaled in the snow and with my extra weight. I did have to give him props for that.
“I’m the second one on the right.” I pointed over his shoulder at our brick ranch.
He rode up to the curb, and I hopped off.
He jutted his chin toward my house. “Cute.” If you called small and simple, cute, then sure, yeah.
“Thanks, and thanks for the ride. Not quite the ride I expected, but appreciated. It was really nice of you.”
“No probs, my friend.”
For a second I considered telling him the My friend part of his sentence didn’t fall under the correct category, but I refrained. “You don’t even seem winded.”
“I have good cardiovascular power. I kind of ride my bike everywhere. Rode it to Chicago once.”
“You did not.”
“Did so. Granted, it was the outskirts of the city, but I did.”
“Cool, I guess.”
“Oh, my word.” He put his hand on his chest and bugged his eyes, the exposed part of his face a bright pink.
“What?” I asked. Ridge might’ve started to wear on me on me a little, but he also kind of confused me.
“You almost gave me a positive affirmation.”
I let out a laugh. “Bye, Ridge. Thanks again.”
“See you tomorrow. Don’t forget about that detention. I’m surprised that’s all you got.”
“Remember? The whole physically attacking Mrs. Anderson thing.”
“Har. Har.” I started walking up the small sidewalk to the front door.
“And someone else did say you threatened her.”
“Um, hello, you were there.”
“I know.” He smiled at me with a stupid, sloppy grin.
“See you tomorrow.”
Once I got inside, I texted Vern about my experience with Ridge, and she responded with a winky face. Not exactly sure what she meant by that. But I grabbed my notebook and started drawing. My dad wouldn’t get home for a couple more hours, and my mom was in the city with my little sister for the week, so my pen scratching paper was the only sound I heard. My drawing of Marla Silverman remained unfinished from earlier because I had gotten interrupted by the bell, so I added a few details and labeled it. I’d observed Marla since the beginning of the year, and she dyed her hair so often that in a way she reminded me of the color changing horse from The Wizard of Oz. So after I had finished the drawing of her running her fingers through her freshly dyed red hair with clumps of it between her fingers—because I’m sure it’d fall out one day from all the chemicals—I drew a picture of her as a horse.
“All right, so tonight.” Vern looked up at me from her laptop. Sometimes, during lunch, she snuck away to the library where it could be just her and her computer, but then sometimes, in the cafeteria, I got company. More than likely, she had yet to start another project.
“Let me guess. More forced socialization.” I bit into my turkey sandwich, and a wave of contentment washed over me. Sandwiches had magical powers and lunch was underrated.
“You don’t have to socialize. You can do your observing thing.” Vern glanced around the cafeteria. So many of my subjects of observation sat around us.
“Will it be worthwhile observations? Also, it’s a school night.” The school night thing didn’t bother me. It was just my best defense for not going.
“There’ll be bunches of people from school there. You’ll see them in a new environment. Could be interesting for you.”
“It could be.” I pretty much liked to draw people doing anything and everything, which included lots of drawings of them doing things that they thought nobody else noticed.
“So you going? We won’t stay too late.” Vern pushed her long blond hair out of her face. I always thought that one day she’d dye it black, but she never did. Her blond hair and pale white skin did offer a great contrast to the dark makeup she wore, though.
“You have yet to tell me where.”
Vern grimaced before she spoke. “The Spot.”
“The Spot?” Ugh. A bookstore café would’ve sat much better with me.
“Yes. The Spot.”
“C’mon, anywhere but there.” All who thought they were cool went and hung out at The Spot most often; those kind of people who thought social status actually meant something. I didn’t believe in high school social status, so needless to say, I had never visited there.
“Collin has something planned.” He was our friend and liked to do what he referred to as social experiments. I met Vern in fifth grade, and we became inseparable, and then in middle school, I met Collin over a package of SkyFlakes. He saw me eating the crackers at lunch, asked if I was Filipino, said he was too, and we just started eating lunch together. And right away he clicked with Vern when I introduced them. We had kept trio status since then.
“Keep talking,” I said.
“And that’s about it. Well, and Mason Mata is going to be there.” Vern closed her laptop and smiled.
“I knew it!” I took another bite of my sandwich and gave her my best stink eye.
“Is it so bad to like somebody?”
“I guess not. But Mason?” I mumbled through my mouthful of sandwich.
“What is wrong with Mason?”
“He just tries so hard to be…” I reflected on all my observations of him that I had acquired during chemistry class. He had dreams of becoming a famous tightrope walker, and he talked about it so much—said it was in his blood—and that he had a set up in his backyard to practice. He told his lab partner that his grandpa used to be a famous Portuguese tightrope walker.
“Be what?” Vern scrunched up her little button nose at me. No matter how much Vern tried to make herself not look like one of the cute Kowalski girls, her adorableness still shone through.
“He wants to join the circus.” I looked around the cafeteria at all the other people who might’ve had a chance in joining the circus with him. Some odd folks sat amongst us.
“You are the most judgmental person ever.”
“Well, you know me.” I shrugged and polished off my sandwich.
“Yeah, and I’m still your best friend. Imagine that.” Vern snorted. One of her charming qualities.
“So are you. Pick you up at eight?”
“Fine.” She always won me over.
“Maybe Ridge will be there.” She blew a kiss in my direction.
“We’ll have fun.”
“I’m not sure on that one.”
So several hours later, I stood next to Vern in a clearing in the middle of the woods. The wind whipped my hair around and sent a shiver down my spine. Tugging my hat down around my ears, I knew I decided wisely when I put on my hoodie earlier because then I pulled the hood up over my hat. Hoodies were one of my wardrobe staples, along with T-shirts (never form-fitting), and white crew or tube socks.
“This is supposed to be fun?” I asked.
“Once you get in close with a bunch of people and talking and drinking, you’ll warm up.”
“Or be murdered. This is the perfect set up for a horror movie or a Dateline episode.” I looked out at the dark woods around us. Nobody would hear anything. It all felt kind of creepy, so more like a horror movie (they were my thing after all). The second somebody got down to their underwear—they’d be goners.
“If you really want to go, we can.”
I shoved my mittened hands in my coat pockets. “Oh gosh, now there you go making me feel all bad.”
“You know me.”
“And you know me.”
“So you’ll stay?” Vern smiled at me.
“Of course. Hey, maybe I’ll go and have some whacky fun.” I shimmied my shoulders like a schmuck.
“Now don’t go getting ahead of yourself there.”
“You’re funny, and look, there’s Mason.” I pointed to the short, skinny boy Vern had a crush on.
“Be right back.”
“Take your time. I’ll go and loiter around Collin.”
Vern floated over to Mason on a cloud of twinkling hearts and happy rainbows, and I walked across the clearing to Collin and the tent he had set up.
“Plan on taking a nap?” I asked. It sounded like a splendid idea.
Collin looked over his shoulder, his black hair as disheveled (on purpose) as ever. “Nope. Setting up an experiment.”
“What is it this time?”
“Secrets.” Collin popped the last tent pole into place and stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans. He stood a few inches taller than me but probably came in close to how much I weighed.