Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 26
Trouble In Paradise

I wake up the next morning ecstatic, beyond ecstatic- literally floating. My head's touching the clouds, and crowned by rainbows, that's how far up I am. And all because Aubrey- I savor the words, clinging greedily to each one- loves me.

I sit up suddenly, snapping my head to the windows, almost positive that he'll be there, winking at me, blowing me a kiss. But he's not, and all I get for my trouble is a crick in my neck. Ah, well...nothing can bring me down.

That is, till I remember that today we're performing in dance, and that today is only a Tuesday and I have three more days after this to see Frank. Frank, who's probably still fuming, and Emma, who's probably been recruited to start fuming. Great.

I quickly dress and head downstairs for breakfast with Lindsey, always the early riser. When I walk in the kitchen I'm pleasantly assaulted by the sizzle of bacon, and Lindsey turns to me with a bright smile, her vivid yellow turtleneck matching the sunlight flooding through the glass door behind her.

"Good morning," she says, gesturing for me to sit down. I obediantly sit, setting down my bag and folding the paper napkin she always elaborately sets out for me into tiny creases of triangles.

"Here you are," she says, setting a steaming plate in front of me, laden with sunny-side up eggs, bacon, and salsa. "Enjoy."

"Thank you," I say, and dig in. We chew in silence for a few minutes, then:

"So, I hear your dance test is today."

I look up, surprised. She knows about that? I never tell Lindsey anything. "Um, yeah." I say, my mind whirring suspiciously. Did Aubrey...?

"Good luck." She says, her eyes crinkling and that small smile tugging at the corners of her thin lips, "I hear you're partners with Aubrey. He's a very good dancer."

Oh. "Yeah." I stammer, blushing to the roots of my hair. She notices.

"How'd you guys get assigned together, anyway?" She asks. "I guess Aubrey pulled the strings as usual-"

"Um, no." I shake my head vigorously at her, hoping maybe my flying hair will distract her from the flames on my cheeks. "Actually, we were assigned partners in the beginning of school, when Aubrey and I weren't- um- weren't friends." I gulp down my eggs, still nodding.

Lindsey nods slowly, but pretends to not notice my embarassment, which I'm grateful for. We've been getting along a lot better since our fight about my mom...let's just hope it lasts.

"Well anyway, I hope you do great. Your father told me you were a dancer still."

I look up at her, interested. "Really?"

Lindsey nods, her eyes drifting off sentimentally, a little smile on her face. "He used to send me videos, pictures- you know, from your ballet recitals and school performances. And you never gave it up." Her black eyes meet mine again, proud. "I'm glad you love something like that. It's good to be passionate about something, and never let it go. To catch your dreams before they fly away."

Why am I getting the impression we're not talking about my ten year old ballet recitals anymore? Her smile is drooping, but her eyes are fierce.

"Did you..." I try to phrase the question politely, carefully, meeting her eyes," did that happen to you?"

Lindsey licks her lips and shrugs. "I wanted to be an actress. You know, on Broadway. It was a silly idea." She shakes her head, laughing humorlessly. "I'm happy where I am now. It's just nice to think about it...you know, what would've happened..." She stands up suddenly, startling me. "Anyway, it's time for you to go to school. Good luck today."

I follow her to the screen door and then step out onto the porch, shifting my bag over my shoulder, curious. So Lindsey wanted to be an actress? Interesting...but she's obviously not going to tell me anymore now. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

 

 

 

When I turn back around Aubrey's truck is in front of the porch- only Aubrey's not in it. I step up to the passenger side, craning my neck through to look in the backseat. Maybe he's hiding somewhere...?

Something collides with my back with a muffled laugh, slamming me against the door, arms clinging around my neck. "Hey!"

I sguiggle around to see a tousled looking Aubrey, already outfitted in his black clothes for the dance. He's grinning, his perfect teeth bright, wisps of bronze hair shading his eyes.

"Good morning, love," he says, still holding onto me.

"Hi." I gasp, still trying to regain my breath. "New way of greeting me?"

Aubrey laughs, tilting his head back. "Oh, you mean the tackle? Yeah, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm so glad you didn't hit me."

"So that's happened before?" I raise an eyebrow. "Who else have you tackled in this manner, Mr. Hunter?"

He bites his lips and looks away, pretending to think. "Um...no comment, Ms. Lark."

"Aubrey!" I smack him on the chest and try to get out of his grasp, but he still has me pinned against the truck.

"Aww, come on, Aurora." He laughs, trying to kiss me, "I'm just playing. You're the only one I've ever tackled in this manner-"

I lean away, shaking my head reproachfully. "I doubt that-"

"-who has ever protested."

"What?" That catches my attention, and I look back to him. Aubrey's grinning, his hands planted on either side of the door, locking me in.

"Yeah, everyone else was delighted to see me. I was a joyful surprise."

"Yeah, well you were very nearly my joyful surprise heart attack."

"Aww, very funny," he laughs, "You make me feel so appreciated."

"Isn't that my job?" I ask sweetly, raising my eyebrow.

"If you say so," he says, leaning in again. With a push I free myself and open the truck door, slamming it behind me with a laugh. Aubrey shakes his head at me from outside, but his lips are turning up in a smile. "Come on, driver, we'll be late to school."

Aubrey hops in, still shaking his head. "The lack of respect these days, honestly..."

The truck zooms off.

 

 

We walk up to the group near the lunch-tables and I smile at Emma, who bites her lip and turns away. Then I see Frank. He's standing with Jimmy and Leanne, talking about something, but when he catches my eye, his gaze slides from me to Aubrey, Aubrey who is smirking in his usual cocky way at Frank.

"Hey, Frank-" I say, starting towards him.

His lips part ever so slightly- and then with a scornful expression of indifference he says, "Come on, Leanne."

She narrows her eyes at me, swinging her shiny sheet of hair as she turns. Jimmy shrugs, and they walk away, the sun glinting on Frank's hair and touching on the stretched leather jacket over his broad shoulders. Emma makes to follow them, but I stop her, putting a hand on her arm.

"Emma, wait-"

Emma looks at me with big reproachful eyes and a stern, tight mouth. When she speaks her head shakes slightly, the curls bouncing on her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Aurora."

And then she's gone too, leaving me with nothing but a pang in my stomach and an ache in my heart. So this is how it is.

 

 

 

 

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