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"Suddenly we were face-to-face. It was like standing in the sun. I could feel the heat on my skin, and just like staring at the sun, I knew it was a bad idea to keep looking, but I didn’t stop."

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17 – Game Night

It was definitely a cause for celebration.  I don’t know how he pulled it off, but Hoyt was able to get my mom to agree to go on a cruise for their anniversary.  I was glad for them to have a vacation.  They needed it badly after months on suicide watch over me.    I also took this to mean that they were over the worst of worrying about me.  I wasn’t the house party type, by any means, but the prospect of having the place all to myself for nine days was exciting.  Their package was actually a five-day cruise out of Cape Canaveral in Florida.  But since my mom wouldn’t fly there, they had to drive and so they were taking extra time on their way down and back for the road trip.

I wouldn’t say this to her, but it seemed like being on a cruise ship for a week would be much more risky than flying in a jet for a few hours, back and forth to somewhere.  No matter how big the buffet or fabulous the shows promised to be, rogue waves and dysentery were a turn off to me—but to each her own.

I mentioned my parent’s last minute decision vacation plans to Lidia, shortly after receiving the news myself, and she seemed oddly concerned.  She asked if I wanted her to come and stay with me at night or if I might like to visit at her place while they were away.


I wasn’t going to say no to that.  But I didn’t want her to think I was totally pathetic, either.  I’d have to think about the best way to proceed.  I accepted her offers without being specific as to which, or when.

As the date drew nearer, Lidia was trying to nail down some timing, and I knew I was being rude by avoiding giving her a straight answer.  But I wanted to have Samantha and Trevor over during that time as well and they hadn’t gotten back to me yet.  I decided to make plans with Lidia and just fit the other two in where I could.

First, I invited Lidia and her husband to join me for dinner at my place at the beginning of my solo time, the day my parents were leaving.  Then I agreed to stay with the Torrences at their place for the weekend.  This would leave plenty of opportunity to make plans with my Goths during the week.  I had to laugh when I thought about the differences in my two sets of friends.  It was what they had in common that I longed for, though.  I imagined that it must be very nice to be part of a couple.  But for me, being odd also meant being the odd one out.  Still, it was better than being a party of one.  Yes, I had my mom, and as much as I loved her to pieces, sometimes she felt more like a landlord, or a dietician, or a warden—my parent, in other words.  Odd one out was great.  Really.

I enjoyed cooking very much, but I had sort of given it up after my grandpa died.   He was the only person I had played chef for, and I just felt empty and sad when I thought about cooking in my mom’s kitchen, especially with her hovering over me, scoffing at the fat or cholesterol content of any given ingredient.  But this was different.  I wanted to make something really nice for Lidia and her husband, and prove that I wasn’t completely inept.  That last part was a stretch, I knew, but I would enjoy trying.

Thanks to my mom’s nearly psychotic fixation with having a clean house, the only thing I needed to get ready for company was the food.   She had left me a credit card and the keys were in the usual spot, so I hopped in my Jeep to make a trip into Middletown to go Krogering.

I realized while I was there, that this was the first time I’d ever actually been on a shopping trip (for more than just some gum or school supplies) on my own.  It felt really adult.  Of course, being as inexperienced as I was, I didn’t realize that being a grown-up at the grocery store is over-rated.

I picked out the items that I needed—feeling weird the whole time because I was usually with an adult when the shopping cart was this full—and made my way to the register.  I must have looked weird too, because the cashier kept searching behind me, like she was waiting for my mom to return with whatever item she had forgotten to pick up in the first aisle.  It seemed like she was really dragging it out too, moving in super slow motion, trying to give my parent a chance to make it back before it was time to pay.

When the last item was finally scanned, about ten minutes later (good thing I wasn’t in a hurry) and a variety of hopeful customers had abandoned the line behind me for more promising service in lanes on either side of me, I produced the credit card and handed it wordlessly to the cashier.  She seemed a bit contrite, but didn’t apologize.

I laughed to myself thinking about how my mother would have regarded all of my product choices.  Using her credit card, I purposely bought exactly what I wanted, price or artificial ingredients be darned.  I made a mental note to destroy the receipt, though, just to cover my tracks.  After loading up the trunk and returning the cart to its corral, I headed for home.

I had decided to use a recipe from my Paula Deen cookbook.  It was easy and there was no way to mess it up, unless I forgot to take it off the grill.  After I put everything away, I placed the things I needed out on the counter and started to assemble our dinner.

The Lawrences arrived just as I’d finished putting the chicken on the grill.  I placed the platter in the oven to keep it warm, washed off my hands and went to answer the door.

As I passed the front window on my way, I noticed they had traveled in the Z.  If it worked out, maybe we could go for a drive in it later, I schemed to myself.

Standing inside the foyer, Lidia introduced me to her husband, Ray.  He looked so much like the actor Denzel Washington that I had to struggle to control my impulse to gawk.    She was obviously a supermodel.  Would it be such a stretch for her to be married to a movie star?  It was strange but I noticed that he seemed to be as taken with me as I was with him—except who did he think I was?

Lidia was clearly enjoying our reactions to each other.  I swallowed down my shyness, giving myself an internal pep talk about how much she must like me to waste a Friday night like this.

I welcomed them both as warmly as I could, trying hard not to sound nervous, but without complete success.  I invited them to join me in the kitchen while I finished up staging our dinner.  I tried not to notice, but from the edges of my careful concentration I could see that they were both watching my every move with rapt attention.  Was it really that novel to be entertained by someone like me?   Apparently so.

I forgot that wild rice takes about twice as long as white rice to cook, so it wasn’t finished and it wasn’t something I could rush.  It would be at least another twenty minutes.

To stall, I suggested that we have drinks and I’d show them how to play corn-hole.

“Would you like to choose the wine?”  I asked to no one in particular with my back turned.

My parents were really into wine and kept a very nice selection in a special wine valet next to the refrigerator.  I opened it up and Ray stepped forward to oblige.

“We’re having grilled chicken breast stuffed with swiss and prosciutto, topped with a balsamic and cherry glaze.  I don’t drink wine, but I think that a dry white might go well, or a Zinfandel.  But, since you’ll be doing the drinking, just choose what ever sounds good,” I said as I set out two wine glasses.

I couldn’t help but be slightly smug about my wine pairing knowledge.  They seemed sufficiently impressed.  Ray chuckled in pleasure and said, “If our hostess recommends a dry white, then that’s what we’ll have.”

He selected a bottle, manipulated the complicated bottle opener with the motions of an expert, and poured a glass for his beautiful wife, and one for himself.  It could have been a commercial.

We stepped outside and into the back yard.  I already had the corn-hole game set out, but I had forgotten the bags that were kept in a storage area under the deck.  When I went to retrieve them I realized, to my great dismay, that several of the bags had been vandalized, probably by a gang of field mice.  I scrambled for a remedy and an idea came to mind.  It was a long shot, but I thought it was still worth a try.

I explained the situation to my confused guests and excused myself, promising to return with usable game pieces momentarily.  Walking out my backyard in a diagonal trajectory toward the corner of our property, I crossed part of one neighbor’s yard and entered the next.  Moving along the edge of this yard, I made my way to the place where I knew corn-hole bags would be available.  But getting their present owner to hand them over might be the hard part.  I wasn’t certain whether he would even answer the door.

This neighbor who had purchased my grandpa’s home and nearly everything in it was an absorbing mystery.  I’d never gotten a good look at him.  He kept odd hours.  I’d seen him coming and going in his car just a handful of times, but the windows were heavily tinted and he always shut the garage before he got in or out of his car.  A lawn service cut the grass.  The realtor told my mom that he was a computer software engineer.  He obviously traveled quite a bit because at night his house was dark more often than not.

I knew that he was in town today because I had seen his SUV pull into the neighborhood as I was coming back from the store.  I rang the doorbell a total of four times, not in rapid succession, but with appropriately polite spacing in between.  I think perhaps he meant not to answer, but when it became clear that I had nothing better to do but to annoy him all night, he must have changed his mind.  I was about to go for five rings when he suddenly materialized out of thin air.  It startled me because I hadn’t heard or seen him approach.  The door went from being closed tight to open with him standing there looking at me, as though I had missed the part in the middle where you hear the footsteps coming, the lock un-clicking, and the door swinging open.

Suddenly we were face to face.  It was like standing in the sun.  I could feel the heat on my skin, and just like staring at the sun, I knew it was a bad idea to keep looking, but I didn’t stop.

It was HIM!  The one called Ash!  As Sam had once put it, my ‘totally handsome stalker’.  The one who nearly freaked out when I disappeared at the theater.  The one whose face starred in all my girlish fantasizing these days.

And now several pieces of the puzzle of my watchers came together simultaneously.  It explained why I couldn’t go outside in my own yard without instant scopophobic sensations cropping up.  It also explained his reclusive, retiring habits.  And it made perfect sense that he, or someone like him, would now occupy the house that backed up to my own.  It was shocking to think perhaps he’d been living there all along, but not unpleasant…no, not unpleasant at all.

He was just so beautiful to look at.  Very different.  What was he?  I couldn’t decide.  Not Hispanic.  Not Indian (the Native American kind or the Asian kind).  Usually I could guess a person’s ethnicity accurately—it was a secret talent of mine.  But I’d never seen anyone in real life or on TV that looked like him, so I had no frame of reference.  He was a completely new kind of gorgeous—a very pleasant mystery, too.  I think what was throwing me off were his eyes.  They didn’t seem to go with the rest of his ‘décor’.

He had black, sort of curly, medium length hair.  No beard or even the hint of one—he seemed too young for that any way.  His nose was perfectly straight and there was a suggestion of a cleft in the center of his chin.  His skin tone was like a cup of coffee where the normal proportions of java and cream had been reversed.  But his eyes, the very best part of his face, seemed so unlikely, yet there they were.  They were bloncket:  a soft, light color, not quite blue, but not grey either—something in between that sort of changed back and forth the more I stared at them.  And those eyes were staring a hole through me now, too.

How long had I been gawking?   I suddenly remembered that I had been ringing the doorbell, so I should be doing the talking now.

“H-hi…I’m…uh…(what was my name again?)…Ellery…”  I struggled to concentrate and communicate, “I-I live…next door.”

Yeah, in the group home for mentally handicapped people, he was probably thinking by now.

I commanded myself to breathe and took a generous gulp of air.  His expression was like a parade, something new every second.  First it looked like shock, then it was inquisitive, next it phased into confusion as I gawked, standing there speechless.  When I had finally stumbled through my introduction his expression looked amused.

My mind was racing to chase down the reason I had come here.

Oh, right.

“I was hoping to see if I could borrow the bags to your corn-hole game?” I asked, spitting the request out in double time.

There was no comprehension in his face.  To help explain myself I used a hand gesture, pretending to throw something from my open palm up and away, while slowly enunciating the words “C o r n  – h o l e?”

A glorious, bemused smile broke across his face, like a solar flare.  It warmed me.  He must have gathered that I was questioning his local language skills and he wanted to put me at ease.  In perfectly articulated English with no discernable accent, foreign or American regional, he said, “Oh…I mean yes.  Certainly.  You’re welcome to whatever you need from me.  Any time.”

I thought about how wonderful it would be to have him make good on that promise…

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He was still smiling at me and it was disrupting my thinking ability.  I couldn’t decide if he was gorgeous, or adorable, or handsome, but the sum of his attractiveness was greater than the combination of the individual adjectives that described him.

After another embarrassing interval, I realized that I was copying him…just standing and smiling, except my mind was whirling in a way that I doubted his was.

I almost thanked him and excused myself.  Then I had a moment of clarity, the first I’d experienced since looking at his face.  The clarity didn’t translate into anything cool or pithy.  It just made me repeat myself.

“C o r n  – h o l e ?” I asked, gesture, and all.

He gave a short nervous laugh and said, “Oh yes.  Okay…I have to admit, I don’t know what that is, exactly.”

I laughed too and replied, “Oh, sorry.  It’s the game where you throw the bag of corn into the hole…” I knew it sounded ridiculous.  I started again.  “Did you clean out your garage after you moved in?”

This must have seemed like an odd question.  He looked like he was struggling to come up with the right answer.  I continued.

“It’s just that if you didn’t move it or throw it away, I probably know where to find what I need…”

He seemed to accept that and immediately stepped aside, indicating for me to enter, and proceed.  As I moved through the door, it occurred to me that this might be hard for me.  The nostalgia and sentimentality might be too much.  Reminding myself that I was here on a mission seemed to help me maintain my focus, and keep the emotions at bay.

He followed me through the foyer, down the hall and into the kitchen, where I turned and headed out into the garage.  There was a bank of cabinets just outside the kitchen door, and the corn-hole set was stored in the nearest section.  The bags were sealed in a clear plastic container.

That was smart.

I took the rectangular container out and closed the cabinet door.

“Here they are.  So I just need them for tonight.  I can bring them back when we’re done… or…” a wonderful plan had just materialized in my mind, “or would you like to come over and… be my partner?”

His eyes widened and some inscrutable thought flashed through them, and then out again.  His smile was soft, and a little sad, it seemed.  Maybe he already had plans.  I pushed ahead any way.

“I mean, if you don’t have plans, that is.  I made dinner…and there’s plenty,” Duh! That was stupid, he could eat my share if there wasn’t plenty, “and when we play, well, you’re supposed to play on teams, and well…we could be a team.”

I wondered if he had any notion of how much I wanted there to be a double meaning to that last part.

I was starting to feel embarrassed because he hadn’t said anything since I had walked in.  Finally, he broke the silence.

“Amazing!  I just went from a TV dinner all alone to a gourmet meal and a game night.  I gladly accept your invitation.  What time should I arrive?”

He was radiant with pleasure and it warmed me again.  I had to gather all my focus to wrap my mind around his answer.

So that was a YES!  What did he ask me at the end, though?

I knew I was just smiling stupidly now.  Seconds passed.  I was so happy he said yes I didn’t know what to do next.  He helped me.

“Shall I escort you home now, or would you like me to stop by a little later?” he asked very sincerely.

His expression held no trace of the mockery I deserved.

“Oh!  You can come with me now,” I said in a tone that was overly enthusiastic.

Then like a gentleman from one of my Jane Austin novels, he took the box from my hands.  Then he held out his elbow for me and I looped my hand through and around it.  I was smiling so big it was almost painful, but in that ideal moment of receiving acceptance from the most handsome man I had ever encountered—just by a nose, but still—I could have been hit over the head with a frying pan and felt no pain!

He escorted me back into his kitchen and then out through the back of the house to the yard and on to my own.  The whole time I clung to his arm as if he might de-materialize if I loosened my grip by even a fraction.  Could I hold on to him and still eat dinner or play corn-hole?  My mind was on random access, searching for a way to work that problem out while I switched to the issue at hand:  introducing our fourth.

Of course I hadn’t thought about what my original guests would think about the addition of my new one to our dinner party.  As different as their reactions were, they both seemed as though they were trying hard to control them.

Ray seemed pleased.  At first I thought maybe he was glad to have another man present, but I realized that wasn’t it.   There was something more, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Conversely, Lidia seemed displeased.  It was as though she didn’t like him, but how could that be?   I knew that I was missing something here, and I wished that I could understand.

I embarrassed myself when I attempted to make the introductions.

“I found some corn-hole bags, and someone to help us play.  Lidia and Ray, this is…my neighbor…whose name escapes me…at the moment.”

They all laughed at me.  I was still too happy to be overly self-concerned.  I looked up at the nameless angelically beautiful one for his assistance. He wasn’t nameless in my mind, but he needed to think so.

“I’m Ash,” he said to me alone.

A drift of smoke from the grill reminded me that I was supposed to be cooking.

Oh no!  How long had it been?  Did I burn the chicken after all?

“I have to check on dinner…I’ll be right back.”

Then turning, I sprinted to the grill.  A big cloud of smoke released when I opened the top, but thankfully, the meat didn’t appear to be burned.


With relief I marched into the kitchen to retrieve the platter from the oven where it was being warmed and then set about arranging the miraculously perfectly cooked chicken on to it, piece by piece.   Then I toted the platter into the kitchen, setting it onto the counter so that I could finish garnishing each breast with more glaze and fresh cherries that had been warming on the stove.  Then I carefully covered the platter with its matching lid.  Next I checked the progress of the rice.  It, too, was perfect and ready to serve.  I transferred the contents of the rice into a ceramic bowl, replacing the lid to keep the contents warm.

Lidia joined me now and we worked together to transport the food to the table outside.  At my instruction she retrieved the bowl of salad from the refrigerator.  The men joined us on the deck and my three guests took their seats.  I remained standing as I removed the covers from each of the dishes.  All the while, I carefully observed their reactions to the site of my culinary productions.

Everything looked great, and I knew it.  So I should have been insulted at the surprise that unfailingly registered on every face at the table.

What were they expecting?  Spaghettio’s?

I couldn’t feel the proper affront, though.  I was just too happy with myself.  To her credit, Lidia’s surprised expression transitioned more quickly than her male companions, morphing into approval and, was it possible, pride?  I wasn’t sure which was more satisfying, the fact that I had pulled off a decent meal or that there were witness to that fact.  I must have been reveling in my triumph for too long because I awoke to the realization that no one was eating, and everyone was looking at me.

“Is something wrong?” I asked as I sat down.

Ray spoke up.

“So…I’m guessing you’re not that serial killer known as the Teen Gourmet, are you?”

The aura of self-satisfaction around me burst like a bubble.

Why would he say that?

Lidia shot him a dark look, dripping with disapproval.  Ash’s expression was negative as well, but something more like disappointment, it seemed.

Ray chuckled nervously and continued, “Well, it looks like you’re not planning to eat, and I was just curious about that.”


I was starving.  I hadn’t eaten all day.  Of course I was planning to eat.  As the faces all turned back to me, I looked down nervously and it made sense now.  There were only three place settings on the table and I was sitting at the end that was empty.

Why do people feel the need to tease me all the time?

Scraping together what little maturity I possessed, (which seemed to be more than Ray had, at least) I smiled graciously, with just a hint of chagrin, and said, “Oh.  There are four of us now, aren’t there?  I’ll be right back.  Or would you feel better if I did a safety taste test first?”

I was all pleasantness and no sarcasm.

They laughed in unison, and with that, the intensity around the table evaporated.  Lidia began to serve herself a piece of chicken.  Ray started to spoon into the rice.  I noticed that Ash was still looking at me, his expression unreadable.  Being caught in his gaze made me feel warm again.  In a mental aside I thought that having him around in the winter would be very good for my comfort, temperature not withstanding.

I noticed that he had nothing to drink so I asked him about it.

“What can I get you to drink?  There’s wine, beer, soda….or you could help me finish off the Kool-Aid.”

They all laughed again.  It was a relief to get laughs when I was actually trying to be funny.  More often than not, my comedy routines tended to be unintentional in nature.

I rose from the table to go retrieve some eating utensils for myself and see to Ash’s beverage requirements.  To my relief, he’d asked for whatever I was having.  This was good for a couple of reasons.  It took the childish edge off of my not drinking wine, though his reasons for abstaining were obviously different than mine, and it spared me from having to explain that the Kool-Aid offer was just a joke.   Though making it clear that I did not actually ever drink Kool-Aid probably would have been good for my self-esteem.

Dinner was pleasant.  I was happy to realize that I wasn’t nearly as nervous with these three people that I didn’t know very well as I could have been.  There was this strange sense of familiarity at the table that I couldn’t understand, but couldn’t deny, either.  We plied each other with polite questions and the conversation kept moving forward in an admirable way, considering the hostess’ nearly disabling tendency toward shyness.  Again, I felt very happy with myself.  I was looking people in the eye, I was asking questions, and I was being the kind of person I actually wanted to be for once.

Ash jumped up to help me clear the table; and I couldn’t hide my pleasure with this chivalrous notion.  He was the first male I’d ever encountered to do that.   Because I’m short and I appear to be much younger than I am, or maybe because I just exude ineptness, it seemed like everyone was always trying to assist me with everything, except the dishes.  There was never any help to be had on that front…until tonight.  And I couldn’t have imagined a more fantastic way to break that streak.  It felt surreal to be standing in front of the dishwasher, of all things, in company with this perfectly beautiful boy.  It was a good thing that he was doing most of the work.  It freed me up to stare unabashedly at him while he labored.

“So about the Kool-aid…”

I couldn’t stop myself from setting the matter straight on that.  I was just too insecure to let that go without being totally clarified.  He looked down and over at me, inquisitive and amused.  It disrupted my train of thought and the words spilled over in a less than controlled way.

“Well, it’s just that…I don’t…I mean wouldn’t ever…be allowed to have Kool-Aid.”

Darn it!  That is NOT how I wanted that to come out.

“I mean, I wouldn’t want to anyway… I uh… I don’t drink that stuff.”

Just shut it.  Stop now.  Are you happy you made your point?  Was it worth it, idiot?

“So your mother is concerned about the negative effects that artificial colors and flavors might have on you?  That sounds reasonable to me.  It makes me wonder about the presence of Cherry Coke in your house, though,” he said, smiling archly.

“Yeah, that’s contra-band too.   I bought that at the grocery today.  I bought all kinds of stuff I’m not supposed to have.  But I’ve got nine days to consume all the evidence,” I confessed.

I laughed self-consciously at my sad little passive aggressive victory:  stickin’ it to the man (or the mom, in this case) while she sailed the high seas.

“Let me know if you need any help with that,” he replied.

He didn’t look at me when he said this, so I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or an offer.  Probably a joke.

The dishwashing business didn’t take nearly as long as normal, or as long as I would have liked, and it was time to do some more entertaining.  We moved out into the yard to try out the Corn-hole game that was new to my guests, including the one who owned his own set.

The concept is simple.  Contestants toss small bags of dried corn toward a wooden target with a hole cut out in the center.  Points are awarded based on the accuracy of the toss.  A bag through the hole is worth three points.  A bag on the box is worth one.  Matching efforts by competitors cancel each other out.  Each player gets four throws. The game is played to twenty-one.

I always especially enjoy the discomfort and embarrassment of men playing Corn-hole for the first time.  I am not by nature a sadistic person, but it’s satisfying to see a good ‘dose of your own medicine’ play out from time to time.  For such a seemingly easy game, victory can be surprisingly elusive.  As your skills improve, usually do those of your opponent.  But there’s nothing more humiliating than competing with a person of skill.  And that’s where I came in.

I explained the rules and encouraged everyone to take practice throws, though I didn’t engage in the warm up exercises.  Just as normal, there was secret pleasure to be had in each man’s reaction to his initial throw, far wide or short of the box in each case.  My secret sentiments were more generous for Lidia.

After an unusually long stint of practice throws the game began in earnest.  In a tradition as old as time, we paired into teams of boys versus girls.  I smiled inwardly, feeling like a cat with canary feathers in my whiskers.

I had subtly maneuvered the pairings so that I would be throwing against Ray.  He needed a little pay back for the “Teen Gourmet Killer” bit at dinner, and I was just the gal to bring it.

With me holding back, the game was fairly even.  Nobody was throwing in the hole yet, so neither did I.  Of the three of them, Ash seemed to have the most natural ability.  He was able to get most of his bags on the box, usually at least three out of the four.  Lidia’s bags would hit the box, but invariably slide off the back.  I would vary my throws so that sometimes they landed on the box, and sometimes they dove off the edge, taking Ray’s bag along for the ride.

The score was very close.  They were all extremely competitive, and the trash talk had started immediately and was escalating with every throw.  The score was boys nineteen and girls sixteen.  Ray and I were up.  Ray tossed first.  His throw was perfect.  The bag passed through the hole like it had disappeared into another dimension.  Because he knew it was ungentlemanly to gloat in my poor little face, his victory celebration took the form of a very expressive arm pump action.

The score was now twenty-one to sixteen.  They had won if I couldn’t counter…a lot.   With feigned nervousness I stared long and hard at the target, some thirty feet away.  Then with a quick toss, my bag joined Ray’s in the fifth dimension.  Behind me I heard a muffled curse and a big sigh.  I suppressed the answering gloat I had for him.  He squared up and tossed again.  It was another perfect, seamless throw—straight in the hole, which was followed by more vigorous arm pumping.

I took a deep breath, concentrating hard on the target, and released my bag into the air.  It was another copycat throw in the hole.   Ray was unhappy now.  There was no muffled sound, just fierce determination as he made his third toss.  The pressure must have disrupted his newfound technique.  The bag smacked hard just above the hole, still on the box, but just barely.

I shooed the imaginary bird feathers away from my face and made my throw.  It too, hit the box, just at the top edge of the hole, but unlike Ray’s toss, my bag took a lucky bounce and slid through the hole, but not before the displaced inertia shoved his bag off the edge of the box and onto the grass behind.

Helpfully, I announced the new score.

“Nineteen all,” I proclaimed cheerfully.

Ray was feeling the pressure of his final throw.  He knew now that he had it in him to throw to hole and win the game.  He was digging deep, probably thinking something like ‘Be the Bag’.  I sure hoped so.

I knew on his release it was over…and so did he. The bag weakly glanced off the very front edge of the box, and then slowly slid backwards, into the grass.  He couldn’t suppress a curse, but he apologized immediately.

I stepped up.  Took a deep breath.  Took another deep breath.  Took time to look at Lidia, who was all intensity, and hope and excitement, ready with her trash talking victory speech, no doubt.

Ash’s expression was not what I expected.  It made me feel guilty—like he knew my secret, and that he disapproved of my using my superpowers for selfish means.  It sucked some of the joy out of this otherwise sublime moment.  But I didn’t let it stop me.  My final throw was a very show-boatingly high arched toss that whistled its way straight into the hole like it had been dropped in from directly above.  And that was game.

Lidia gleefully announced the final score, “Girls twenty-two, boys nineteen!”

She was inordinately happy (considering her contribution of points) to share the victory with me and bounded over to give me a huge hug and kisses too.

“We won!  We won!” she kept shouting.

Ash had approached as well and came over to shake my hand.  Just like before, I felt warmed by him.  The look he gave me was piercing, though.  He knew.  Of course he knew.  He’d probably watched me practicing mindlessly for hours at a time because I had needed it to look like I was doing something, but I couldn’t take being with people or being in my room any more.

Something without words flowed between us.  He knew I knew that he knew.  There was a knowing smile across his face.

He said, “That was well done.  I think I should start practicing with you.”

My heart skipped a beat, but in my eagerness to acquiesce I still managed to say, “I’d love that!  Mom and Hoyt won’t play with me.”

That wasn’t really true anymore, though.  They were still way into indulgence mode and would play anything I wanted, corn-hole included.  Though I wondered how far the indulgence would go if I tested it by playing in the backyard with my adult male neighbor, the one who I’d love to help me round out the numbers in social settings…

Curious about Ash’s reaction to being invited over for dinner?  Click on “Perspective Passport” below and find out…

Perspective Passport

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Chapter Index | 4 Comments

4 Comments (Leave a comment »)

  1. The part of this section that got me was when he was talking about how it felt for him to almost loose Ellery. I am curious more so now about he feels from his perspective at the end of In the Spotlight. Can’t imagine. I really want In the Shadow’s to be released today.

    Comment by rebeckah — February 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm

  2. Can’t wait to read Ash’s full perspective

    Comment by Mona-Lisa Plaza — January 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

  3. I’m reading “Barefoot Heroine” now…very good. This style, the way the words and mental pictures flow, are so delightful!

    Comment by Marilyn — March 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm

  4. When Ellery meets Ash and the way you describe him makes me think of Thunder, though without the weapons and armor. He is another heroic character from the Fable game.

    Comment by Branden Dale — July 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm

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