Briar scrambled off of me and said, "God! I'm so sorry. I'm such a klutz."
"No, it was my fault... Hey, you got a piece of taco meat in your hair." I had to keep from laughing. Maybe she was a little clumsy but I didn't mind. I just couldn't believe I was sitting on the cafeteria floor with her.
"Oh my God, now I'm really embarrassed."
Pulling her to her feet, Beau waved me over to sit with him and what looked like his friends. A striking silver haired bombshell sat right next to me before I could move. I wanted to eat with Beau so we could talk a little more, but she intervened.
"So...like who are you? Give me all the dirt. Seems you just moved here and already Briar is ready to jump your bones. Can't say I blame her. You are a hunky little number, aren't you? But still...I never thought I'd see Briar flip over someone like that. You do know she has a..."
Briar jumped in, "Etoile, why don't you let the poor guy eat before you start interrogating him?" She glared at her friend, sending some sort of girl code with her eyes.
"That's okay, Briar, I don't mind," I said, giving Briar a wink.
"Let's see...my name is August Day, I just moved here from San Myshuno, I have a younger brother, two dogs, one cat, and I have a soft spot for girls with silver hair." Thought it wouldn't hurt to amp up the charm. She looked like the type that wouldn't stop bugging me until I flirted with her a bit.
"Oh, Briar, he is a sly dog, isn't he? Can I have him? Please?"
I laughed. "I didn't know I was up for grabs."
"Ha ha..." Briar said, cheeks turning red, "you're so funny, Etoile."
"Etoile, leave August alone. You're going to scare him away from our table," Beau said, saving his sister who looked like she wanted to hide under a bush. "He's an old friend of ours and she was just happy to see him. That's all."
That's all? That kiss said otherwise, but I wasn't going to point it out until later when I got Briar alone.
Beau introduced me to his best friend, Ethan Moon, and one of Briar's friends, Amber Coleson. Thankfully, I fit right in, cracking jokes with everyone. There weren't any awkward moments although I was constantly dodging sexual innuendos from Etoile. But I didn't mind that. I thought she was funny.
After lunch, I asked Briar, "Hey, want to get some ice cream after school? I'd love to hang out. I mean, we only have six years to catch up on."
"Yeah...I'd like that, but..." she bit her lip then said, "Well, I can't put off telling you any longer. I have a boyfriend, so I don't think that would be a good idea."
My heart sank. Boyfriend. That figured. Of course someone as gorgeous as Briar would be taken. But obviously she didn't give a shit about him or she wouldn't have kissed me. I couldn't roll over belly up on this.
Stopping her, I said, "Come on...it's not a date. It's old friends talking. What's the harm in that?"
She stared at the ground not saying anything. I could tell she was debating on what to do.
"I'll meet your boyfriend if that would help. I mean, I just want to talk. That's all. I promise."
After a few more moments of what I could tell was an internal struggle with herself, she finally said, "I'm sorry, August, but I have a ride after school. I can't." Looking up at me apologetically, she said, "Maybe we can catch up tomorrow at lunch? We'll sit by ourselves."
Not exactly what I wanted to hear. "Okay, I guess," I said, really feeling dejected. I finally found Briar Blackwell, the only girl who could make my knees quiver, and she was unavailable.
I couldn't accept that.
Somehow, we were going to talk about things. About us. She didn't know I would ever come back into her world and neither did I. Why did she have to stay with someone she obviously didn't love? I knew this because that kiss told me everything. She was just as happy to see me as I was her.
I sat next to Etoile in math and asked her about Briar's "ride". She was all too happy to inform me that her boyfriend was this ultra rich stud who sent a family car to take her home every day. I thought that was strange, but who was I to judge?
I decided to put a plan into action, hoping Briar wouldn't get mad.
After school, sure enough, a limousine sat waiting outside with some scary dude next to it. He certainly didn't look like a normal driver. More like a bodyguard.
But what were drivers supposed to look like anyway? So his massive fists seemed like they could pummel my face into mincemeat. That didn't mean he would, right?
But a gnawing feeling chewed at me just assessing the situation.
What kind of guy was this boyfriend anyway? Already, I didn't like what I was seeing.
I took in a deep breath and wore a charming smile. "Hello, there!" I said, cheerily.
"You're waiting for Briar Blackwell, aren't you? She told me to let you know she has a group project to do after school, so she won't be needing your services today."
In a gruff voice, he said, "I'll wait."
Should have figured it wasn't going to be that easy. "Look, it's embarrassing enough for her to have you pick her up every day. Don't you remember what it was like in high school? She said she's getting a ride with her friend, Etoile. Sorry, man, but you'll be waiting for nothing."
"Hmm," he grunted. "I'll have to tell the boss about this."
"Tell him. I mean, my God, she's a high school student with responsibilities, not some prisoner. Maybe the police would like to know that you wouldn't allow a teenager to go home as she likes."
He smirked. "The police. Ha. That's a good one. What's your name?"
No way in hell I was giving this rent-a-thug my real name. "Uh...James. James Bond. You know....like in the movies? My parents are hardcore fans. We have all the dvd's of every episode imaginable. Do you like spy movies?" Talking a mile a minute hopefully would distract him off my scent.
He spat a loogie which landed right next to my boot. "Okay...James...I'll let the boss know what you said." His voice held an underlying threat like I was supposed to know who this "boss" was and be shitting my pants by now.
"Yeah, go tell him for me!" I said, brightly.
Shaking his head, he got in his car then motored away.
As I watched the limo disappear into the town, someone tapped my shoulder. Turning, I saw Briar looking up at me. "That was my ride. What gives?"
"It seems like he had somewhere else to go." I hoped she'd buy it.
"You mean you told him to leave. Who gave you the right to do that, August? Do you know how much trouble you might cause me?"
"What the hell, Briar? Who is this boyfriend that you can't send his ride away when you want? Are you his prisoner?"
"God, August...you don't know anything. I'm not a prisoner."
I flipped my arms at her. "Then spend some time with me today. That's all I'm asking. You won't have to even look at me again afterwards."
She put her hands on her hips, glancing out at the bay, shaking her head. "Fine. But no more of your pranks. I don't need my boyfriend to get mad at me."
Placing my hand over my heart, I said, "I promise."
"I have a place we can go. Come on."
Following her along the boardwalk, we ambled toward a forested area, outside of town until we came to a pier. The salty sea air reminded me of those times my family and I visited Pongo. The ocean was still the ocean no matter where it was-- full of sea life and sand, only in this area, it was cool with a lot of clammy moisture in the air.
The waves lapped the edges of the dock, calming me.
"It's nice here," I said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," she agreed, sighing. "I always like to come here whenever I need to get away. I thought you might like it."
Turning toward her, I asked, "Are you sure you want to stay with this guy? I mean...you kissed me in the cafeteria."
Glaring, she said, "I...that...I-I mean...August, I was just overwhelmed and happy to see you. I wasn't thinking straight. I'm sorry if you got the wrong idea. I truly am."
"Why don't I believe you?" I heard myself say. I couldn't take my eyes off her. It was like I was eleven years old again and we were the only two people in the world. I knew she had to feel that connection, too.
Looking down, she said, "You don't understand. I can't just break up with him. I mean, listen, you can't expect to barge into my life and expect things to go back to the way it was when we were kids. My God. We were only eleven!"
"You know it was special, Briar."
"Let's not talk about that, okay? What about you? How's your family? Your mom and dad...and Darius? I bet he's super big by now. Remember how we used to play house and he was our little boy? Such a cutie. I'm sure all the girls are loving him at school now. How old is he? Eleven?"
I shook my head. "You're not going to change the subject. Tell me. Are you in love with him?"
Picking at a nail, she said, "I...I can't do this." She turned around and bolted from me.
Catching up with her, I grabbed her hand and said, "This isn't going away. I'm not going away. You have to answer me. Do you love him?"
"What if I told you no, would you leave me alone then?"
"Then why stay with him?"
She just shook her head. "You don't understand. It's complicated."
Pulling her toward me, I said, "I understand one thing. I lost you once and I'll be damned if I'll lose you again."
When she wouldn't say anything, I held onto her and begged, "Please, Briar, won't you give me a chance? I promise you won't regret it."
"I...I want to August, but...I...I just can't."
"It's impossible," she whispered, pulling away, folding into herself.
The sun appeared from out of the clouds, beating its heat down on me, making me sweat. I shrugged out of my jacket and threw it on the ground, feeling the cool breeze wash through me. Thankful she hadn't left yet, she allowed me to thread my fingers in hers. "Then will you just let me hold you this one last time?"
Nodding, she snuggled into my shoulder. I wondered what kind of hold this boyfriend had on her where she felt like she couldn't cut ties with him. It was almost sinister. And how could Beau allow his sister to get entangled in a relationship like that? I wondered where her parents were, too, but knowing them, they would have been no help.
Feeling her body against mine and breathing in her sweet scent, I was in pure heaven and pure hell, knowing I couldn't be with her. There was something fishy going on, I was sure of it. I didn't like the way that driver acted nor how she almost felt bound to this guy.
If she wasn't going to tell me anything about her relationship then maybe her friends would. And Beau had a lot to answer for in my opinion. This seemed nuts to me.
I didn't ask her any of the questions that were swirling around in my head. I just enjoyed the few moments I had with her, watching the seagulls light on the water and relishing her warmth.