Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 10
Love and Hate

I roll down the window and let the wind whip my hair around my head, my eyes closed against the warm glow of the sun, orange through my eyelids. I think about what Emma said- that Frank has a crush on me. I think I've suspected it, subconciously, all along. But now I feel bad. I guess I've been leading him on, sort of- and now that I'm stupidly falling for Aubrey, poor Frank is left in the cold. Why am I such an idiot? I wonder. Of all the guys, Aubrey Hunter?

I turn my head to look at Frank with my halo of flying hair. He looks at me and grins.

"How do you like Emma?" He asks.

"I like her a lot." I say. "I think we're gonna be really good friends."

"Good." He looks satisfied, and I feel more guilty, if that's possible. We reach Lindsey's and I hope out, slamming the rickety door shut.

"You sure you don't want me?"

I shake my head. "Thanks, Frank. See you tomorrow."

He gives me a mock salute. "Tomorrow, California."

In a cloud of dust the blue truck rolls off and I go into the house, dropping my bag in the hallway. I run up the stairs to my room.

There's a pile of mail on the bed; this I eagerly examine. It includes a letter from Dad, a postcard from Matt, and a big box from my best friend Meg. I open this first and find a letter, as well as a lump of tissue paper which I unfold out to discover a flippy turquoise dress. I tear open the letter and read eagerly.

Dear Rora,

First of all, let me say I miss you! Last weekend Stace and I tried going to the Grove for the usual girls-night-out, but it wasn't the same without you! School is boring- well sort of. Guess what?? Member that Indie rock kid, Jonah, in English last year? He asked me out! Of course I said yes, and we went on the cutest date to the beach- except I got sand everywhere and it was hella cold water. He is so amazing! I wish you could meet him! Oh, Alex says to say hi for him, so hi. Anyway, how is Arizona? How are you getting along with your grandma? Are there any hot guys? I have to stop writing now because mom's calling me for dinner and I want to take this to the post office before it closes. Oh yeah, the dress is something I picked up at the mall a couple days ago, it looked just like you. I hope you like it. Write back, or call me! I miss my bestest friend!

                                                                                             Love,

                                                                                              Meg

I smile and drop the letter, shaking out the soft folds of turquoise flounce. Meg's always been a little flippant, but her letter makes me crave home more than anything. Home, with dad and Jasper my Siamese, and the beach with cold water, and my best friends! And instead I'm sitting in a cramped little room in a ridiculously painted house in a small town in a huge desert! I laugh derisively then tell myself to stop it. Nothing good ever comes of regret.

I slip on the dress and examine myself in the mirror. It's soft and clingy, with fabric ruffles. It's sleeveless, delicate folds of gauzy turquoise draping over my shoulders and down to a V-neck. I have to admit, it's very pretty. The color highlights the red in my hair.

I step back into my sandals and go downstairs to the kitchen, where I know Lindsey will be. It's time for some grandmother-granddaughter bonding, even though we both know we've never been fond of each other.

When I come into the room she's sitting at the table, reading, and there's a pot simmering on the burner behind. I scrape back a chair and sit down. She looks surprised, and slightly suspicious.

"Aurora," she says, "Nice dress."

I smile. "Thanks. My friend sent it from L.A."

She crinkles her nose when I mention Los Angeles but I pretend not to notice.

"So," she says, taking off her reading glasses and fixing a pair of sharp brown eyes on me, "how was school?"

I shrug. "Okay. I met some nice people. Frank showed me around a bit. It's fine."

The corner of her mouth twitches when I mention Frank. "That Thompson boy...you and he are-uh...?" She raises an eyebrow suggestively.

"No, not at all." I shake my head vehemently. Aubrey must have put this into her head. Damn Aubrey, with his reckless good looks and beautiful girlfriend!

The twitch becomes more prominent, threatening a smile, and I can't help but be annoyed. Why did I even try to have a conversation with her?

I get up and head toward the door. She calls after me, "Dinner at 7:30. Don't be late," and I slam the door.

 

 

I head towards my spot, then change my mind and go in the direction of the oasis, the heat rising off of the red rocks and pulsing in the air like a live thing. I walk quickly, waiting for my breathing to calm down, the anger to ebb away. But it's hard to be calm when the whole scorched desert screams fire, heat, rage.

I finally reach the oasis and stand, staring at the bleak landscape. I remember that I'm still wearing the new dress, so I can't sit. Everything is so frustrating! Despite myself a tear wells up and spills out. I tilt my face up to the dying sun, feeling the warmth trickle over my eyelids and down my neck.

"Nice dress."

I spin around, startled, hastily wiping away my tears. In front of me stands no one other than Aubrey, his hands shoved in his jeans, the familiar half smile playing round his lips. It fades when he sees my face, which, of course, betrays me.

"Go away, Aubrey." I say, turning away and starting to walk. He catches up to me, quickly, effortlessly.

"What's wrong?" He asks, his perfect eyebrows drawing together in a frown.

I snap my eyes back to his, hard, impersonal, but my voice cracks all the same.

"I hate this place!" I yell. "I hate stupid Bitter Springs, and the stupid desert, and all you stupid fucking people! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!"

With a stomp I start to walk again, but he reaches out a quick hand and grabs my wrist, pulling me back, fire in his eyes.

"Let me go!" I splutter, but he's already caught hold of my other wrist. He tilts his head as he speaks to me, barely moving his flawless lips, almost whispering the words.

"Seems like every time we meet here you're mad at me." I struggle, but his eyes bore into mine, holding me spellbound. "Why is that?"
"I hate Arizona, and I hate you, Aubrey Hunter!" I spit.

He shakes his head ever so slightly, infuriating me. "No you don't."

I nod fiercely. "Yes, I do. I hate you!"

His voice is so quiet I can barely make out the words. "Do you hate this, Aurora Lark?"

And before I know it his perfect lips are touching mine, and a million suns are exploding, stars raining down. Every nerve is on fire; every sensation heightened. I feel my wrists slacken. It would be so easy, I think, to surrender, to let myself go. But a small part of my brain punctuates the paradise, small and insistent. I don't want to be just another one of them- another meaningless girl fawning over him.

I push against his chest, breaking the kiss, propelling him backward.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" I yell, trying to make myself hate him.

He looks startled and confused- I bet this has never happened before. His eyes pierce mine, uncomprehending. "What- what do you mean?"

I glare and cross my arms. "You have a girlfriend!" I watch as realization breaks over him, turning his face black with a scowl.  I guess he's never been rejected before.

"Oh, I'm sorry," He sneers, barely concealing his mortification, "that's Thomspon's job, right?"

He's starting to actually make me mad. "Shut up, Aubrey." I say.

He snarls, throwing the words at me like knives, derision in his every feature. "But then again you were practically throwing yourself at me."

I flinch. It hurts more because I actually do like him, and it might be true. I can feel the tears well up in my eyes. Great. This always happens when I'm mad. "That's not true." I say.

"No?" He cocks his head and sneers at me. "I'd beg to differ."

I step forward, angrily tossing my hair, my blood boiling. "You know what, Aubrey? Just because I won't become one of your- your-" I splutter for words.

"One of my what?" He narrows his eyes.

"Conquests." I say for lack of a better word. "Doesn't mean you have to be such a bastard to me."

He laughs meanly, raising an eyebrow. "Conquests? I think you're reading a little too much into this. It was only a kiss."

I cross my arms and shake my head. It wasn't, and he knows it. "No, it wasn't. I don't know about here," I wave around at the empty scorched desert, "but where I come from, a kiss isn't just a kiss. A kiss means something- they're not just handed round like handshakes."

"A kiss is a commitment, is that what you're trying to say?" He laughs at me. "I've kissed dozens of girls, and they've never wanted anything of a commitment." He looks me up and down contemptfully. "I guess in California they make em clingy."

This is going to far. By now the tears are streaming down my cheeks. Every word he says hurts. I search around in my artilery, looking for something to pierce his shield of smug self satisfaction. I want to hurt him. I've never wanted to hurt someone so badly. Finally I find it.  I step back from him and curl my lip disdainfully.

"Really? That's what I'd say about Arizona.  You were throwing yourself at me, and just can't handle rejection. I guess you can't always get what you want. That hurts, doesn't it?"

With a last mock smile that conceals the bleeding heart beneath, I turn on my heel in the turquoise dress, leaving Aubrey to stare where I used to be.

 

 

That night  as I lean on my elbows and stare out of the windows at the moonlit desert, feeling the cold saturate my sheets, I close my eyes and remember. Just the thought of his lips pressing mine makes every nerve catch fire. I trace my fingertips over my lips, feeling them curve up into a smile. These lips! I think. These lips touched Aubrey Hunter's! I cherish a small moment of absolute bliss, until I realize how many other lips have felt his, how many other moonlit girls have smiled to themselves over his image. The thought causes my head to pound and blood to boil. I'm surprised at myself.

"Why, Aurora Lark." I whisper to myself, the darkness, the desert, "You're jealous."

I'm jealous.

 

 

 

 

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