Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 40
Backfire

When I wake up the sky is calm and still, and already the naked desert heat is streaming in through the window. I sit up too quickly and the blood rushes to my head, dizzy. And then- I remember.

Frank. I need to find Frank.

 

 

 

After flipping through the phonebook for a while, I finally find Frank's address. It's strange that I never knew where he lived. But then again, neither do I know where Aubrey does- or where he wanders at night when he's not at the trailer. I scribble it down on a dusty Post-It, 322 Obsidian. All of the roads here are named after rocks. It's kind of weird when you think about it- but also strangely fitting.

I grab an orange from the kitchen and quietly leave through the screen door, careful not to wake Lindsey. She's sleeping in today.

The way to Frank's house is new to me. The desert gradually becomes tamed, polished rocks and neat little cacti arranged into little desert "gardens" in front of brightly colored stucco houses with personalized mailboxes. I see a few people out and about- a newspaper boy on a bike, two old women taking a walk. It looks so strangely calm here, safe. It feels very Frank-ish.

I reach his street and suddenly become acutely aware of the huge gnawing feeling in my stomach. I'd sort of rushed over here on impulse, and now that I'm actually standing in front of his door, I'm losing nerve. I swallow hard and press the doorbell. You have a plan, Aurora, I say. Relax.

After a few minutes the door creaks open and a middle-aged woman in curlers and a blue terrycloth robe peeps out at me. She stares blankly at me with a bland, impersonal smile.

"Yes? Can I help you?"

I scuff my heel against the rough doormat and force a smile. "Yeah. Um, I'm here to talk to Frank."

She raises an eyebrow. "Oh, are you a friend from school?"

I nod. "Yeah. Uh, my name's Aurora. Aurora Lark."

"Oh." She repeats it with emphasis now. "Aurora. I've heard a lot about you."

Oh, great. I swallow. I wonder exactly how much she's heard. "Haha, yeah. Um, so is Frank at home?"

She shakes her head. "I'm sorry, he's out. Stormed out early this morning. I must say, that boy's been acting awful strange lately. I'll tell him you stopped by, though."

I shake my head quickly. "Oh no, it's okay. I'll talk to him later. Thanks anyway." I make to head away, but she calls me back with a smile.

"It's nice to finally meet you, Aurora." Her teeth gleam bright in the filtered sunlight. "Have a nice day."

 

 

 

I walk away, half disappointed and half relieved. It would've been awkward talking to him there, in his house with his mom and everything, I try to persuade myself. Much better to do it at school, or on the phone- no, not the phone. I need to speak to him in person. Stop being such a coward! I think. Agh, if only my stupid longing to see Frank would just vanish.

Suddenly I stop. So caught up in my thoughts, I'd failed to realize someone was walking in front of me. Now I become painfully aware. It's Frank.

He has his back to me and he's paused, hands in his pockets and looking down at the ground. I swallow, my heartbeat throbbing in my head, my throat suddenly parched. Now is the time. Just call his name, say something-

All of a sudden he turns around. It all happens to quickly for either of us to react. His eyes immediately lock onto mine, his face registers shock- for the moment, no anger, reproach, regret- pure surprise.

"Aurora?"
"Frank." I step towards him with a tentative smile. "Hi."

"What- what are you doing here?" His eyebrows draw together.

"Um, I need to talk to you. I went to your house-" I falter, the heat burning in my cheeks. "I really want to explain."

Then his face changes. I can see the struggle as he attempts to put back on his silent, stony anger. His voice, a moment ago eager, now speaks restraint.

"I don't think there's a need for that."

I step closer, stretch out my hands imploringly. "No, please. Please, just give me a couple minutes."

He crosses his arms with a sigh, but his eyes are interested, eager. "Okay. What do you want to say?"

I swallow again. "Um, maybe you wanna sit down?" I pause but he shakes his head, resolute. Fine. "Oh, okay. Well, I came here to say that- I really want to be friends with you again. I hate that everything ended so horribly between us, and I just want to- to apologize for that."

He sighs, uncrosses his arms. I can see his icy manner wavering. "No, Aurora-"

I put up my hand. "No, please, let me just finish. I feel like I...like I led you on. And I'm really sorry about that. When I first came to Bitter Springs, you were my first friend. You were really nice to me." I smile. "And I think maybe, you misunderstood me- I mean, my friendliness. I just- I was so lonley. And I think I gave you the wrong impression somehow, but I never meant anything more than for us to be friends."

His eyes flicker quickly, shiny blue. I can tell he wants to interrupt me but I hurry on, determined to get my say.

"But I should've told you about me and Aubrey, and I'm sorry I didn't. I hate that you had to find out that way. It was really- thoughtless of me. But the thing is, I really didn't want to choose between you guys. I feel like everyone made it a choice. And I think you thought I chose Aubrey over you, but I didn't mean-"

He comes closer to me, shakes his head. "No Aurora, I'm sorry. I was really immature about it. I've been thinking about you a lot lately, and I'm sorry I screwed things up like this. I'm hoping you'll give me another chance. Can you?"

I eagerly grasp at his words. "Of course! I want to be friends, I really do-"

He cuts me off again, so close now I can see the threads of gold in his curls. "Tell me this will never happen again." His eyes are pleading, sincerity spelled out in every feature. I feel strangely mesmerized.

"I promise," I say breathlessly. "Yes, I promise, I promise. It won't-"

And then all my words are stopped as he closes the gap between our faces and Frank's lips are touching mine, and his hand is on the back of my neck, pulling me close to him. And he's kissing me hard and eagerly, and my heart is jumping in my throat and my head is screaming No! No! And I open my eyes to try to break away and my vision flicks to a spot behind Frank's shoulder, and it's then that I see, with a horrible sinking feeling, a dusty red pickup hurridly zoom away, a pale white face reflected in the mirror, shocked, reproachful, betrayed. And this is not what I wanted, not what I meant, and I realize suddenly with the pit in my stomach and his mouth on mine, this was all a mistake.

I never meant for this to happen.

 

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