I featured this story here on the blog before. That piece was from Chapter 1 and can be read online.
“Go ahead and plan to leave,” Lucas said. “Hold onto your ticket. I’ll even drive you to the train. But I’ll do it with Sam and John and Charles and Will. With Marcus and James. Even with Jesse. And you’ll have to look us all in the eye as you board and decide what’s more valuable to you. Your plans in Atlanta. Your friend, Christine, who I’m sure is great. Or ten people who love you.”
The second of eight boys, Lucas McGilley spent his youth pulling pranks. Yet growing up comes hard, and he’s learned his lesson. Or so he thinks.
Then Iris Willow shows up for the summer, and along comes love, strife, and a terrible family secret. He needs her now, more than he’s ever thought possible.
But can he convince her to stay, or will she catch the train and be gone forever?
From the author of best-selling novella, ME & TIMOTHY COOPER, comes another young adult romance of first love and the importance of family.
This scene comes from the beginning of chapter 3. After seeing Lucas' brother torment him with stories of his past, she's taken it on herself to offer comfort. Something it seems he doesn't want.
Lucas’ torment wreathed its way into my soul. How could his family let him leave like that? Didn’t they see how they’d hurt him?
I cast a look around the table over faces so much alike and stood to my feet. My napkin fell from my lap into the floor. “I’m sorry. I … I have to go,” I said, aware how lame it sounded, and I dashed from the room toward the receding echo of Lucas’ plodding feet.
A blast of sticky evening air hit my face through the open front door. Lucas halted there, his hand on the knob.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“To talk.” My heart pattered reckless in my chest. Could be he didn’t want to talk to me and I shoulda stayed seated.
“This isn’t your business.”
I was right then; he didn’t. But I forced my head up higher ‘cause here I was. “Maybe that makes me the best person to tell it to.”
Lucas spun around and edged onto the porch. “Might as well,” he said. “It can’t get worse.”
I hesitated. That didn’t sound like much of an invite.
He leaned his elbow on the railing. “Here you are on the first day, and already you know half the horrible things I’ve done. Maybe that’s why you came, to be some conscience for me.”
His words stung, and I winced in their backlash. “Please, let me explain.”
He faced forward into the rapidly fading light, not looking at me. “Go ahead,” he said.
I drifted to his side. “I don’t know what it’s like to have family. It’s always been just me and Aunt Claire. So I can’t identify with having brothers that know all your secrets, but I understand being the person talked about.”
He glanced at me, but the shadows hid his face.
“And I’m just as guilty as them anyhow,” I confessed. “I already told you I’d decided what you would be like. I mean, look at me, I’ve never been outside Atlanta, and now, here I am miles from anywhere in a town the size of a city block. That’s why I was mad.”
“Why are you telling me this?” he asked.
I pushed my hair off my neck and over my shoulder, startled to see Lucas’ gaze follow the motion of my hand. “I have nothing to hide,” I said.
“Unlike me.” He flicked his wrist. “Forget I said that. I have no right to take out my frustrations on you.”
“You have every right. I’m no porcelain doll that will break because you speak to me. Furthermore, your family shouldn’t have grilled you like that. Don’t tell me in a house full of boys, you’re the only one who’s pulled a prank.”
He laughed softly. “You’re a piece of work. You know that?”
His laughter made my insides flutter.
“I think my original description of you fits,” he said. “You’re my conscience come to life to set me straight.”
But, no, I wasn’t. I sought to correct him. “I’m only Iris,” I said, “with no special powers.”
And his eyes became bottomless pools, his smile fleeing away. He leaned in toward me, and I inhaled the musky smell of his skin and tasted the warmth of his breath, my mind spinning circles.
“Iris Willow,” he said quietly, as if testing my name on his tongue. “I’m not sure I believe you.”
His transparent expression made it impossible for me to move, and his husky tone enhanced it, so my hands on the porch rail, I simply stood there.
He released the pressure between us by straightening. “Tell me,” he said. “What fuels you, having traveled all these miles to stay with people you don’t know, to think you should follow me out here and fix things?”
“Fix things?” I asked.
“Isn’t that what you’re doing?”
“No.” I let the word sit between us. I wasn’t trying to fix anything, only let him know someone understands.
“It seems that way to me.”
I exhaled and it pulled the life right out of me. “I apologize for overstepping,” I said. I was beginning to see I was wrong in following him. “I just thought ... thought if you were my brother, then I would apologize ….”
“So we’re like brothers to you. Is that it?”
I considered his words. “Girls have dreams,” I said, “and lonely girls have even bigger dreams than usual. We think about all the things we want for the future and all the things we might have had. Many times I’ve pictured myself as part of a family, thought about what it’d be like to have other people around me, so I guess I just … reacted.”
He reclined against the porch post, his face turned my way. “You didn’t answer my question.”
My voice faltered. “Would … would that upset you?”
It must. Why else would he ask? I had no right to be here, no right to fix anything. I bit my lip. How had I gone from not wanting to speak to him earlier to defending him from his family? It was like me to be rash, to not think this out.
“What upsets me right now, here, tonight is you,” he said.
My eyes stung at his words. “I’m … sorry,” I choked. Shivering, I rubbed my arms and turned aside, the truth whisking through me. I’d blown it. A few hours here and I’d relaxed my guard, thinking things wouldn’t be so bad; when at the bottom of everything, things were exactly how I’d thought they’d be from the start. The McGilleys were simply tolerating me.
How was I supposed to make it through the summer knowing that?
The moon arose, a silver disc hung in the midst of great blackness. Lost in its glow, I didn’t hear Lucas approach.
“Iris.” His voice came low and quiet in my ear. “You’ve misunderstood me.”
I jumped in place. “H-have I?” I didn’t think so. He’d seemed clear enough.
“How about we start over and tell the truth this time?”
My voice shook. “What is the truth?”
He laid a hand on my shoulder, his palm warm and firm, and turned me around. “You don’t want a brother, and I don’t want a sister.”
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.