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       Lost Boy, p.8

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Expecting a lot of sun?” he asked, then laughed when Tink floundered and dropped the book on the ground with a thud.

  “Go away!” she hissed, picking up the book. “Before you blow my cover.”

  “Uh, it’s blown, because teenagers don’t read.” He paused as he read the title, “The Age of War and Computers.”

  “Some do.”

  “Most don’t,” he snorted. “If you want to blend into our school, lose the crazy hair and books.”

  Her censor box started to chime as his phone buzzed. He picked up and heard Wendy’s voice rush out over the line. She must not have seen him in the hall, and he knew she was calling him from the locker room because of the slight echo of the brick walls.

  “I have a problem.” Her words sounded a bit forced. Like she wasn’t just trying to convince him but herself as well.

  “What’s wrong?” He already knew what she had done but let her tell her side.

  Another long pause. “I just agreed to go on a date tonight with Jeremy, and I don’t want to.”

  “Why did you say yes?”

  “I had a moment insanity.”

  “Yeah, you do have those. Look sis, if you don’t want to, don’t. You’re entitled to change your mind. Jeremy will just have to deal.”

  “Yeah, I know. It’s just . . .”

  “What?”

  “I dunno. I mean, I used to really like Jeremy, right?”

  John grinned. “Yeah, you did. You used to write his name all over your folders like a creeper.”

  “Shut up!” She laughed.

  “Don’t go if you don’t want to.”

  “Well . . . What would the old me have done?” Wendy asked.

  “She’d have gone on the date, and then rubbed it in Brittney’s face,” John chuckled. “But seriously, only go if you want to, not because you think you should.”

  “I’ll do it. I mean, what could it hurt?”

  “Nothing.” He looked over at Tink, and an idea popped into his head. “Especially if you had backup. Let’s make it a double date. We’ll go with you as protection.” John grinned, winking at Tink who suddenly paled and shook her head vehemently at him.

  “Who’s we?” Wendy asked suspiciously.

  “Uh, ah, I mean a girl and me,” John said. Tink dragged her finger across her throat.

  “Girl has a name you know,” Tink spat out into his ear.

  “Yeah, we’ll meet you there.” He was positive that his plan was a good one. He’d score a date with Tink and stick close to his sister.

  Tink’s face scrunched up in a grimace, and her hand formed a fake gun pulling a trigger to her temple. Her finger twitched, and her head dropped forward.

  “Uh-huh. Yep. Sounds good.” He hung up.

  Tink’s face was red. “I’m going to kill you, dweeb.”

  “No, you’re not. Besides, it’s not a date. Think of it as an undercover operation. You’re going to come with me and help keep an eye on my sister. Maybe you can get on her good side and do some mild interrogation.”

  He smiled, feeling extremely proud of himself. He kept second-guessing his decision to not have her help Wendy recover her memories. That would give her a chance to talk to Wendy, and he could keep an eye on them both.

  “We’ll see, pretty boy. You may wish you never met me when I’m done with you.” She pushed away from the wall.

  “You think I’m pretty?”

  She stomped her boot on his foot. And he yelped. Tink paused to text, Peter he presumed, about their plans.

  “So, when is this nondate?” she threw out over her shoulder, trying to sound disinterested.

  He tried to hide his smile of pleasure. “Tonight.”

  She walked out mumbling under her breath, “[email protected]*% boys.”

  Chimes followed her down the hall.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Wendy decided that dating was the worst. Well, maybe not dating, but dating someone you couldn’t remember and using it as ammo to keep the guy you did like away was horrible. Everything she did was just inviting bad karma. She had all day to repeatedly run through all the worst-case scenarios in her head. Most of them ended in her making a fool of herself.

  At home, she changed out of her grey shirt and jean shorts, into an oversized T-shirt dress with denim jacket and slip-on white sneakers. She ran her fingers through her hair and called it good.

  She stared at the thimble on her dresser and was debating leaving it behind, but she grabbed it, shoving it into her pocket, and drove the Prius to the theater. Her parents had walked to their neighbor’s house for their weekly game of pinochle. So, John had borrowed their car and met his date ahead of time—having muttered something about it not being a date and that they needed to meet at the mall and walk together. But it had given her the same idea—separate cars—and she’d called and told Jeremy she would meet him there.

  Wendy was mentally berating herself over the whole drive. She shouldn’t have accepted the date with Jeremy. At the time, it seemed like a good way for keeping Peter at a distance while she came to terms with aligning what she wanted and whom. She had to choose between her old self and wants and her new self, and maybe realize that there wasn’t room for either boy.

  She parked the car and stared at the movie theater across the parking lot, which suddenly became the Sahara Desert. Impossible to cross. Her imagination took flight, and every car was a threat, with someone inside ready to catch her.

  Climbing out of the car, Wendy gave all the vans and large SUVs a wide berth and ran past any car with dark windows.

  Come on, girl. Walk in. One foot in front of the other, and move it.

  John walked up to her with a cute blonde who wore black denim and a green slouchy tank with a hat. The girl kept flashing irritated looks at her brother but then would try and smile when she looked her way. Wendy recognized her from school and her confrontation with Brittney, but she didn’t know her name.

  “Hey, Wendy.” John gave her a nod. He looked sharp in a buttoned plaid shirt. “This is—”

  “Isabelle,” the blonde answered, “but my friends call me Tink.”

  “Right. Tink.” John seemed a bit relieved and tried to put his arm around her shoulder, and she deftly avoided it, flashing him an irritated look.

  She said, for his ears only, “No, you call me Isabelle.”

  Wendy found herself chuckling at the two, but her laugh was interrupted by Jeremy’s arrival. He had showered, his hair was slicked back, and overpowering cologne wafted over her. A cheap off-brand, she bet.

  “Hey, doll,” Jeremy drawled out and slipped his arm over Wendy’s shoulders. She got a quick whiff of something else that wasn’t cologne—something that came in a different kind of bottle.

  She shuddered, but forced a tiny smile and followed him as he directed them to the box office.

  “I thought we were going by ourselves?” he said a little too loudly.

  “I invited my brother,” Wendy countered.

  “Who asks their brother on a date?”

  “I do, of course.”

  “Of course you would,” Jeremy said. It came out like the insult he meant it to be.

  Wendy liked the idea of going into a dark movie theater alone with that guy less and less.

  As they were waiting in line, Tink leaned over and started to chat with her. “So, how was school?”

  “It was all right,” Wendy answered, not even realizing that school was only a few hours ago.

  “So, nothing unusual happened . . . say, after school today or yesterday?”

  Wendy frowned and looked over at the girl interrogating her; there was a good chance that she knew her from a class but couldn’t recall if they were friends or not.

  “No, nothing exciting,” she lied.

  “I see,” Tink answered but was busy texting on her phone.

  It was odd to see John on a date with someone who obviously wasn’t interested in him. He went to put his arm around her again, and Wendy watched
as Tink casually stepped on his foot with her boot.

  Somehow, they made it through concessions and into the darkened theater with little conversation. Wendy ended up in the middle, with Jeremy on her left and Tink on her right. She could feel the girl watching her out of the side of her eye. After the previews ended, the feature began and a creepy melody began to play, and Wendy had reservations about their choice of movie and company.

  Jeremy leaned over and reached for the popcorn in her lap. Popping a few pieces of it in his mouth, he winked at her. She tried to return his smile but wasn’t feeling it.

  When a nerve-racking scene came on, she sat frozen with her hand gripping the armrest. Jeremy casually reached over and put his hand on top of hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze. At the moment, that was what she needed as the giant monster jumped out of the closet and devoured the side character in the movie.

  Wendy could feel her pulse race as the monster in the film resembled the thing from her nightmares. Her hand trembled, and Jeremy put his right arm around her shoulders, mistaking her trembling as invitation.

  Frozen in fear by his touch, she stilled and her breath caught in her throat. She was about to lean forward and move away when Jeremy let out a yelp and pulled his hand back.

  “Ouch, something pinched me.” He cupped his right wrist, and she saw a bit of blood on his hand.

  Wendy turned and looked Tink’s way, but the girl’s eyes flickered quickly to the person sitting directly behind them. There was someone with messy hair sitting nonchalantly by himself with a bag of Skittles. It was Peter. He made eye contact with Wendy, giving her a wink before tossing a few candies into his mouth.

  Wendy quickly turned around and stared at the screen with mixed emotions. She was irritated that he had followed her on her date but was also secretly pleased. She felt her cheeks grow warm as she blushed and tried to suppress her smile. She didn’t want him to see her reaction toward him.

  She focused on the movie but couldn’t help but feel very aware of Peter sitting behind her. He drew her attention far more than her date. A few more times, she glanced over her shoulder, and he seemed more fascinated by her than the movie on the screen as well.

  She knew she had made a huge mistake by going on the date. She wanted to be sitting back one row, her hand entwined with someone else’s.

  “This movie is dumb,” Jeremy coughed under his breath. “That girl is going to be killed next. It’s obvious based on the plot device.”

  “I think it’s going to be the touchy-feely boyfriend,” Peter interrupted from behind. “Because I’ve read the book, and the backup guy never wins.”

  “Hey, if I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it,” Jeremy said, getting defensive, but Wendy squeezed his hand, trying to distract him. It worked. Jeremy leaned even closer to her, and she struggled not to cringe as his arm wrapped around her shoulder and he began pulling her closer. Wendy tried to scoot down in the seat away from him, but he just leaned in to whisper something.

  No. Not whisper. Jeremy tried to kiss her.

  His eyes closed, his lips puckered, and the wave of cologne hit her like a semi-truck. She tried to push him back. A hand filled with Skittles reached between them, an arm appearing from nowhere.

  “Want one?” Peter said with a laugh, and Wendy felt a sense of relief.

  “Back off!” Jeremy slapped the candy away, and it went flying, hitting the viewers in front of them.

  Peter retracted his hand and the offer. “Okay, okay.” He sat back in his seat.

  She couldn’t fight the urge to look behind her, and the longer she sat next to Jeremy, the more she knew they weren’t right for each other. She casually put her drink into the holder between them and let go before it had settled, spilling the liquid all over Jeremy’s pants.

  “Jeez!” he yelled, jumping up.

  “I’m sorry,” Wendy exclaimed, pulling out a wad of napkins from under the popcorn bucket. Jeremy grabbed the napkins and tried to wipe up the mess, but his jeans were soaked.

  “Stop, you’re making it worse. I’ll be right back.” Before he headed out of the theater, Jeremy muttered under his breath, “You better be worth it.”

  Moments later, Peter nimbly climbed over and sat in Jeremy’s vacated seat.

  “Hi.” He smiled warmly at her. “Is this seat taken?”

  Wendy beamed back, her cheeks growing warm, and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Um, not at the moment.” The hair didn’t stay and fell back into her face.

  “I know,” he grinned. He gestured with his head toward the departing Jeremy. “You can’t possibly like him.”

  She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure.”

  He looked aghast. “How can you not be sure if you like someone? You either do or you don’t.”

  “It’s complicated,” she whispered, her breath catching as his fingers trailed along her cheek to tuck her stray hair behind her ear. “I’m complicated.”

  He leaned close and whispered, his lips brushing against her cheek, “Aren’t we all? But you . . . you have the right to be complicated, and you have the right to be choosy.”

  The gentle touch of his mouth along her ear and cheek as he spoke made her tremble; her lips parted as she exhaled. His finger turned her chin to bring her quivering lips toward his; he leaned in to kiss her. His eyes were dark with desire, and she knew that her eyes reflected the same desire. She felt his warm breath; her eyes closed and felt a teasing caress across her bottom lip.

  A loud clearing of a throat interrupted them, making Peter pull away. Her mind mentally screaming at the unfinished kiss, Wendy looked over and saw Tink making a motion with her head toward the exit. Jeremy was returning. But Peter wasn’t going to move; he had claimed Jeremy’s seat, his arm around Wendy possessively.

  Jeremy came down the aisle and froze when he noticed the intruder in his seat.

  “If you can’t tell, that happens to be my date,” Jeremy said, slurring his words, and pointed between him and Wendy.

  “No.” Peter didn’t waste a second. “This is my date. You were just keeping my seat warm.”

  “What? You get out of here. She came here with me.”

  “But she will be leaving with me.” Peter’s voice held a hidden threat.

  “Peter!” Tink warned.

  Jeremy stood, his fists curled at his side, a sign he was ready for a fight, and Wendy could tell that Peter behind her was egging him on into action.

  Wendy was done being treated like a possession. Peter just said that she had the right to choose, but it sounded as if he was making the choice for her.

  “No, I think I get to decide who I’m leaving with,” Wendy announced. She could see John’s concerned face.

  At first, she thought it was part of the movie, but then it came again. The shadow by the screen. Wendy was unprepared for her gift to come to light at that moment. She looked between Jeremy and Peter and was irritated with them both. “I’m leaving by myself,” Wendy said firmly as she crawled over the movie seat to Peter’s vacated row.

  “I mean it,” she said, shaking her head at Peter when he made to follow her, silently pleading with him to give her space. Keeping her eyes straight ahead, she hurried out of the theater into the hallway and walked toward the restrooms. Jeremy didn’t let up but followed her departure.

  “You came here with me, Wendy. You’re supposed to leave with me.” Jeremy said into her ear, his hand sliding around her waist. “I paid good money for your ticket.”

  “Then, I will give you your money back,” she stammered, trying to pull away from Jeremy, but his grip around her waist tightened. “Let me get my purse.”

  “I know a different way you can repay me,” he said as they continued walking past the restrooms toward the exit. “After all, you owe me,” his voice lowered threateningly.

  “No, I don’t owe you anything.” Wendy panicked as she saw the exit doors to the back alley looming closer. She started to fight Jeremy and push away, but he grabbed her
wrists.

  “Relax, Wendy. I’ve got something that will help you relax and enjoy the night a little more. It will help loosen you up.” He patted his front pocket and then pulled out a clear baggie with white pills in it.

  “No, thanks,” she gritted out. “Let me go.”

  “Now, that’s not what you want, is it?”

  Wendy answered him with a quick kick to his shin. Instantly, he released her wrists, and she bolted for the doors.

  “Yes,” she said, pushing on the door, and peeked fearfully into the alley, “I want you to leave me alone.” The warning came as she stepped into the semi-dark alley, the door closing and locking behind her. A single light illuminated the entrance, and she turned and pressed her back against the door, hoping that Jeremy wouldn’t follow her.

  Wendy released a long sigh and leaned her head back. She’d have to walk around the multiplex to the lobby to go back to her brother and Peter, or they might start to worry. Heck, she was worried. Though she wasn’t necessarily afraid of what she’d seen, but of the unknown. Her feelings for Peter were growing stronger by the minute. The more time they spent together, the surer she was that they had a past together.

  Her fingers gently touched her lips, and she remembered the sweet touch of his kiss.

  The shadow came and floated just on the edge of the halo of light. Then, a second one came and joined the first. Together, the shadows drifted back and forth like excited puppies before they settled down and waited.

  “What do you want?” Wendy asked.

  They started to float again and take off in a direction away from the theater toward a back alley. Wendy looked around her and decided to do something brave.

  She followed the shadows.

  When Wendy didn’t return to the movie, Peter began to worry. He knew it wouldn’t be cool to chase her out into the hall after her warning, but he didn’t trust that scumbag, Jeremy. He watched John’s head sweeping toward the rear doors as well, so much so that his head resembled a pendulum. Both of them were worried.

 
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