Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 6
Frank's Birthday

We drive for a couple hours and I, embarrassingly, fall alseep. When I wake up it's almost seven and the sky is fading blue and white, and Frank's leather jacket is on top of me.

Stealthily I peek at him from my slump by the window. He's looking forward and smiling, humming along to the oldie on the radio. Despite my doubts about the safety of the car, Frank is a very good driver and the steady motion somehow comforting. I ostentatiously yawn and stretch my arms.

"Ah, California, you're awake." He throws me a smile. "Finally."

I blush crimson. "I'm sorry. That was pretty embarrassing. I can't believe I fell asleep."

He turns down the radio. "It's okay. We're almost there, look."

I look out of my window and see the glittering lights and tall city buildings that signify Tuscon. After about fifteen minutes of careful manuevering we park and Frank helps me out of the truck. I can't help it; already I'm feeling older.

I give an involuntary shiver. Surprisingly, it's cold, and Frank tucks his jacket tighter around my shoulders, putting an arm around me. We walk through the neon city lit up warmly in the dark cold, and my high heels click on the cement. I wobble a bit, but luckily don't fall down.

"Here we are." He says.

We stop in front of a fancy-looking building with large glass windows lit up yellow, illuminating the gleam of glasses and neat-looking waiters. The door is heavy and brass, and opens with a swing. I'm enjoying myself immensely.

We are ushered to a brightly lit table and settled opposite one another. I smile, impressed. "This is really nice."

He grins. "Lot different than Bitter Springs, huh?"

"Yeah." I hold the stem of my fancy wine glass, watching the light reflect off of it. "Happy birthday, Frank."

He reaches across the table and takes my hand with both of his and bends his head towards me conspiritorally. "You look really pretty." He whispers. I, of course, blush. It's nice to hear all the same.

The food is excellent and, I fear, expensive. But we have a lot of fun, and I get the waiters to sing him happy birthday, much to his embarrassment. He gets me back by refusing to split the bill.

"But it's your birthday!" I protest. "Least I can do, please."

He shakes his curly head resolutely, a stubborn glint in his eye, though the corners of his mouth threaten a smile.

"No, my treat, I told you."
I shake my head, mystified. "Alright. Fine. I'll pay you back eventually."

He smiles as he helps me on with his jacket. "Someday."

The drive back is quiet and peaceful. I feel so at ease with Frank- just like the first day we met, and he stared at the sky while I drew, in perfect, companiable silence. And, of course, I fall alseep, again.

"California." Frank whispers, and I open my eyes to a pair of sapphire ones, like blue torches in the black starry night. "You fell asleep again."
I yawn and he opens my door, helping me as I stumble sleepily out of the truck. A glance towards the house shows me that Lindsey is still up, the kitchen window lit up bright.

Frank turns to me and stops me as I try to return the jacket. "No, keep it. I'm not cold. I can get it tomorrow or something."

I draw it back around my shoulders gratefully, looking up into his eyes that glimmer in the dark. "Hey Frank, I had a really nice time. Happy birthday." I try to smile but break into a yawn. He chuckles.

"I'm keeping you up too late. Well, California, I had a really nice time too." He tucks a loose strand of  my hair behind my ear, the back of his fingers brushing my cheek. I can feel it burn and my heart trying to escape my chest, but I just smile.

"Good."

He nods, and with a sudden grin kisses the top of my head. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Ok. Tomorrow."

I step away from the truck and watch as it slowly rumbles into the darkness, then yawn as I walk towards the porch. It must be eleven at least.

"You're back, Juliet."

A sarcastic voice floats out of the darkness. I stop, twirling around. "Aubrey?"

He steps out from behind the porch, coming towards me with that cynical half smile so habitual to him. "How was your date with Romeo?"

I glare at him and toss my head. "None of your business."

I make to head into the house but he stops me, stepping in front of me with a wicked grin. "I notice he didn't kiss you. Why not?"

I gasp, annoyed and incredulous. "You were watching?"

He merely snickers. "You two are very entertaining. Thompson's quite the gentleman, isn't he?"

I ignore him, trying to push past, but he still blocks the way.

"'Ooh, Frank, I had a really nice time'" he mimics, laughing.

"Aubrey, get out of the way." He's really not funny.

He ignores me. "'Happy birthday," he mocks, his eyes dancing.

Suddenly, I've had enough. I swing out a hand to slap him but he catches my wrist with a quick reflex. Our faces are inches apart, but the smile on his face is gone.

"That wasn't very nice." He says.

"Let go of me." I growl between clenched teeth, struggling to free myself. His eyes are fierce, and they bore into mine, but his grasp only becomes tighter. "Let go!" I yell.

"Aurora?"

Lindsey's voice punctuates the darkness, sudden and alarmed. "Aurora?"

With a snarl Aubrey drops my wrist and I snatch my hand away, angrily pushing past him. I run up the steps and into the house, slamming the screen door.

"Aurora?" Lindsey calls for a third time, sounding genuinely worried. I pat down my hair and hurry into the kitchen.

"Hi, Grandma Lindsey."

She turns around from the stove, her constant post. "I was worried about you. It's almost half past eleven."

I nod and shift on my feet.

"So, did you have fun? I got your note."

I nod and weakly smile. "Yeah, it was great." I yawn obviously. "I'm a little tired, though, I think I'll go to bed."

With another yawn I escape to my room, conscious of her eyes on my back. I flop onto the floor and lean out of the window, breathing in the desert air.

 

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