Something was up with Dayla.
She stared out the window twisting a strand of hair around her finger as my bodyguard, Roik, drove us to my house. Usually, she’d be pawing through my purse for gum or lip gloss before we’d even cleared the school gates.
I tugged on her skirt, and she slapped my hand away before she caught herself. “Sorry, Avie,” she whispered.
She glanced at Roik. “I’m fine,” she said, but I knew: Day was saving the truth for later.
Roik turned off Arroyo, and I sat up in my seat. The Lean Dog was eight blocks away. I smoothed my hair and asked the universe to grant me a favor: red light at Fair Oaks. Come on. I could really use one today.
Green lights shot us past apartments, the hospital, the post office and sub shop. I glanced at my phone. Damn. We’re too early.
One block away, Roik sped through a yellow, and I set my finger on the window button, but I didn’t have much hope.
Up ahead, the light was green. Bright, annoying, missed-chance green. It flipped to yellow and then at the last second, red. Roik braked.
I leaned forward to block Day, because I couldn’t trust her to behave. The rules were clear: I could lower the window, smile, and give Yates a wave, but no calling out. No arms outside the car. Bodyguards had their rules, and these were Roik’s.
The smell of hamburgers hit me as I scanned the café windows. I breathed through my mouth, trying to evade the memories it triggered.
I spied Yates handing a customer a bottle of ketchup, and the guy shook a fry at him. They laughed like they were sharing a joke.
Roik tapped the accelerator. The light was going to change. Look over here, Yates.
Yates brushed his hair off his face and his blue eyes caught mine. He smiled and swiped his thumb down his nose.
I waved back, keeping my hand inside the car. I wasn’t Fearless, but I loved how he called me that. My tongue ran over my now perfect tooth as I relived the skateboard and the cement steps. Yates giving me a hand up. The crazy awe in his voice when he said, “You’re fearless!”
I wanted a shot of him just like this with his dark hair falling over one eye and his sideways smile—different from the one he slapped on for customers.
But if I took one, Roik would make me hand over my cell. A drive-by was one thing. A photo? Not happening.
The light turned green.
“You two would be perfect together,” Day said.
My heart skipped, and I checked the rearview mirror. Roik was watching the traffic, so he must not have heard Day. But still.
“Don’t be weird,” I said. “He’s like my big brother.”
“Oh, right.” She smiled slightly and gave me a look I didn’t understand.
I ignored her. She was still holding on to that embarrassing crush I had on him when I was twelve. Yates and I had known each other forever. Even longer than I’d known Dayla, because our parents were old friends and our dads ran Biocure together.
These thirty seconds after school when I got to see Yates were the proof that someday soon, I’d have a normal life again. I’d go to college and hang out with guy friends like Yates and maybe—I’d even fall in love.
The world had changed in horrible ways, so Yates and I weren’t allowed to talk or be alone together. Maybe I was lying to myself, but the connection we made through the glass made me feel that the future wasn’t impossibly bleak.
Dayla huddled against the door. I didn’t have any idea what was going on in her head, but it had to be bad.
Copyright © 2014 by Catherine Linka