Capture, p.10
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       Capture, p.10

         Part #1 of Seaside Pictures series by Rachel Van Dyken

  Safeway was packed. I sent a text over to Lincoln that I'd grab the waffle mix if he wanted to wait in line at Starbucks. I knew he was thankful. Already he was getting odd looks from people. It was in the paper that filming was taking place for the next few months, and he was a dead giveaway with his Lakers hat and Ray-Bans.

  I quickly weaved through the grocery-cart traffic until I reached the pancake and waffle mixes.

  He hadn't specified what brand he wanted.

  So I just picked the one that said organic, assuming that was probably what he'd want anyway.

  "Dani?" a familiar male voice called. "Is it really you?"

  Shivers ran down my spine as I turned and came face to face with my ex-boyfriend.

  "You're back." He grinned, looking like an innocent boy. He looked how I should have looked at that same age… innocent, wide eyed, excited about life. "Are you going to be finishing senior year?"

  I tried to speak. I wanted to so bad. I begged my stupid mouth to move. I prayed to God that I wouldn't be embarrassed or that he wouldn't think I was a total bitch, too good for him.

  I made a croaking noise.

  He frowned.

  I tried again.

  "Oh." He took a step back. "You're still sick, huh? That has to suck, not talking… have you ever tried just being better?"

  Have I ever tried just being better? Light bulb! Why hadn't I thought of that? Someone give him a prize!

  "I mean…" He stepped forward. "… don't you think it's kind of immature to use this to get all that attention?"

  Tears stung my eyes as another figure made its way down the aisle.

  "Elliot, hurry up — oh…" Amanda his new girlfriend, my ex-best friend paused mid-sentence. "Dani, you're back!"

  Fake smile.

  Fake boobs — compliments of her rich parents.

  And by the looks of it, fake lips. Great.

  "We've missed you." She reached out to hug me.

  I took a step back.

  Rolling her eyes, she motioned to Elliot. "We gotta run, homecoming court and all that. I'm sure you would understand if you actually stopped pretending to be traumatized and went to school."

  Angry, so angry that the words wouldn't come, I opened my mouth again. This time a weird mewling noise came out, one I'd never before uttered. I sounded like a lamb caught in someone's fence.

  Amanda burst out laughing. "Anyone ever told you that you could be an actress just like your sister? How is she, by the way? Knocked up by that movie star, what's his name?"

  "Jamie Jaymeson," came Lincoln's smooth voice. "We'll be sure to let him know you said hi." He wrapped a possessive arm around me and pulled me close to his chest. A war raged within me — lean on him like I actually needed him and was thankful for his save, or jerk away and embarrass myself more.

  I leaned in.

  He smelled like Starbucks coffee and leather.

  "No way!" Amanda smacked Elliot in the shoulder. "You're Lincoln Greene!"

  "Yup." He held a tight smile. "I'm sorry, and you are?"

  "Friends." Amanda blurted. "Old friends with Dani."

  "Well, that's weird." He shared a look with me and squeezed. "I've known Dani here for a while, and she's never mentioned you. Not once."

  Amanda's face turned bright red. "Well, she doesn't talk, so maybe that's why."

  Lincoln grinned tightly. "She talks."

  Oh no. What was he doing!

  "But only to people extremely close to her, right, baby?" He kissed the top of my head and sighed. "Anyway, we're late. Nice meeting you. What was your name again?"

  "A-amanda." She jutted her chin out.

  "Right." Lincoln had the whole little-people stare down like an expert. Even I flinched when he haughtily dismissed the two of them and steered me back down the aisle.

  "Assholes," he muttered under his breath as he angrily grabbed the mix from my hands then swiped his card.

  "Are you a rewards member?" the checker asked.

  Lincoln stared him down.

  The checker swallowed slowly. "I'll take that as a no."

  I grabbed the mix while Lincoln snatched the receipt and tugged me toward the truck. He opened my door, and I climbed inside.

  He didn't shut it.

  I frowned as he braced himself against the door frame. "Are you okay?"

  I shrugged.

  He licked his full lips then grabbed his phone and started typing.

  Linc: I'll go back and publicly shame them both, just say the word.

  Dani: Ex-boyfriend, ex-best friend. Both have ex in front of their name for a reason.

  Lincoln read the text and glanced up, his eyes locking on me. "You dated that?"

  I slumped down in my seat and typed in my phone.

  Dani: He's the quarterback.

  Lincoln's face twisted into a bitter smile. "I don't give a shit. He's an asshole."

  Dani: We all deal with grief in different ways. He loved my dad. It was hard on him losing us both.

  "But you lived." Lincoln argued.

  Dani: Is that what I'm doing right now?

  He didn't answer. He stared at the text then glanced back up at me. "Jaymeson never told me. He just said you needed a job and were a selective mute. I looked it up online." He looked embarrassed. "Beyond that, I don't know your story. But I do know this. You lived for a reason. So what you do right now — even if it's as simple as getting out of bed every day — it matters."

  He shut the door.

  The static silence greeted me, making my body tense with a tingling awareness, almost as if someone had just pressed cold paddles to my chest and shouted, "Clear!"

  "So," Lincoln jumped into the truck, cleared his throat and started the engine. "Jaymeson said you baked. Please tell me that includes making kick-ass waffles."

  I gave a solitary nod.

  "Thank God."

  And that was it.

  He didn't pester me about the accident or ask for details about what had occurred in the store, which bothered me, because for the first time since everything had happened, I wanted to volunteer that information. I wanted him to know.

  Maybe because he'd defended me, a stranger.

  Or maybe it was because he'd been blunt, almost hurtfully so, when up until now everyone had used kid gloves with me.

  Maybe the hard and ugly love was what I needed.

  I'd always been a hugger.

  Now, I had to wonder if the accident had changed me from a hugger — to a fighter.

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