Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 8

When I get back to Lindsey's it's mid-afternoon, and I still think my heart might explode. I start guiltily as I recognize Frank on the porch. He springs up easily when he sees me.

"Hey California! Where've you been?" He asks reproachfully.

I blush. "Um, drawing. On the oasis."

He raises an eyebrow. "Alone?"

I nod, my cheeks inflamed. "Yeah." I finally stammer.

His expression clears as he accepts this without question, and I hurry to change the topic.

"So, uh, why are you here?"

He shrugs. "Thought you might wanna hang out. And I kinda need the jacket." He grins.

I run a hand through my hair, which is sticking to the back of my neck in the harsh heat. I suspect my face is an unflattering lobster red by now.

"Oh, right," I say, "Come on up."

I lead Frank up the narrow carpeted stairs to my room, where he sits awkwardly on the white whicker chair at my dressing table. The square set of his shoulders and muscles is an odd juxtaposition to the delicate room. I sit cross-legged on the floor and gesture to our surroundings. "My new room." I introduce.

I watch as he takes in the Death Cab For Cutie poster, the row of Jane Austen novels on my shelf, the bright sunflowers sitting in blue vases on both tables; my ballet flats, worn and tired in a heap by the open window, various jewel toned scarves that hang carelessly on the bedposts, the photo box on the bed. Oops.

He tilts his head and reaches over to it, perching it carefully on his knees. "What's this?"

I smack myself inwardly. Why am I so careless? "Um, just some pictures," I say reluctantly, trying to inconspicuously peer at the photo he now holds gingerly between his fingers.

"Who's this?"

I swallow and crawl over to where he is, and he shows me the picture. I can remember it vividly, like I'm reliving it- the salty ocean breeze ruffling my hair, the sand crunchy between my toes. The dull, crashing roar of the ocean- her voice. It's a photograph of me and my mom; we've been twirling across the beach, and collide into each other's arms. Our faces scream in laughter, her dark hair fanning into the wind, tangling with mine. Her eyes are bright- too bright- her hands thin and pale. But for that one moment she's perfectly happy, and we wrap our arms around each other and laugh to the sky.


I realize I've been zoning out, and blink vigorously, trying to usher the tears standing in my eyes away. "Um, my mom. That's my mom."

He nods appreciatively. "She's beautiful. What happened?" He jokes, elbowing me.

I weakly smile. "Yeah. She was."

Frank pauses and his eyes search my face. No crying, I will, no crying. I am not going to spoil a perfectly fine day. But, as always, my tear ducts refuse to listen to reason and a tear spills. Then another. Frank grabs my chin and gently turns me to look at him.

"Hey," he says, "hey."

He wipes the tears off my cheeks and folds me into his arms. He smells like musk and detergent, comforting. I bury my face into his shoulder and let the sobs go. Finally he pulls away and frowns anxiously. His eyes are like blue tide pools, changing with every reflection of the light.

"I'm sorry." I say, looking away. He tips my chin back to him. His voice is soft.

"Don't be."

I sniffle, and we sit silently until the tears stop altogether. He gives me a small smile. "Better?"

I nod with a watery smile. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Anytime. Do you want to talk about it?"

I look down, knotting my hands. "There's not really much to say. Two months after that picture was taken, she was taken to the emergency room, and diagnosed with lung cancer, stage four. I can't believe it got that far. There was nothing they could do. A couple weeks later she died. I was fifteen."

"I'm sorry." He says.

I nod. "Yeah. It was hard. It's just looking at those photos, I remember..."

We glance through the pictures, though I've seen them so many times I could draw them in my sleep. Me and her cooking, in matching orange aprons- me and her eating birthday cake in the hospital, smuggled in by dad. My favorite is the one taken a few days before she died. I'm curled up next to her on the hospital bed, and we're asleep. Her halo of black hair stands out against the white of her pale face. Though we're asleep, she's smiling, and so am I- perfectly mirrored smiles- smiles that laugh at fate, death, the inevitable. Badges of courage.

Frank stays for lunch, and we end up eating leftover lasagna and pink lemonade, since Lindsey is out. We sit on the porch, staring out at the sun, which runs for miles and miles across the dusty desert, chasing it's shadow.

"California," Frank says, looking over at me, the golden light bathing his already tan face, "You do know that school starts in a couple days."

I nod, though that's a reminder to me.

"Nervous?" He prompts with a encouraging smile.

I swallow. "A little, yeah. I guess everyone knows everyone here, right?"

"Yup, since kinder. But don't worry, people know you. Linsey Lark's granddaughter, the new girl from California."

"Yeah..." I say. "Is that supposed to be a good thing?'

He shrugs. "Maybe. I'm sure you'll like it, though. Wilson's cool."

I bite my lip, unconvinced. "Whatever you say."

He nods. "That's the spirit."


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