Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 20
Settling the Sand

It's times like this when I miss the technology that everyone had on their person at all times in L.A.: a cellphone. I don't know a single teenager in Bitter Springs that possesses (or wants) one. This thought strikes me as I stride through the dust, searching for Aubrey, aware of the fact that he has no phone or pager or anything (even a walkie talkie!) and, knowing Aubrey, that he could be anywhere in this small town. As untouchable as the wind. I guess the only way to find Aubrey is to find his truck, and who knows where that is. My mind roves over the possible locations; the pizza cafe where he and those guys were ordering pizza the day Frank took me out for a milkshake? The gallery? His mom's trailer? But I don't even know where that is.

I can't believe how last night, everything was so perfect- I felt at peace with Bitter Springs, Arizona, the world. And now everything's in tumult. At least Lindsey is being reasonable, I think grudgingly. Have to give her credit for that.

My steps have been taking me, unknowingly, towards the direction of the oasis. Hell, why not, I decide, and hurry up, thinking if I can just make it there, maybe it'll all turn out to be a bad dream, maybe I will open my eyes and see that I've been mediatating, lost in a daydream, and I'll get up and walk home and everything will be normal-

There he is. Against the harsh backdrop of the glaring sun, a sitting figure is silhouetted against the sky.

"Aubrey!" I call, running closer.

He turns around, and I gasp. The person is not Aubrey; those brown curls and snubbed nose I know only too well.

"Frank?" I splutter, surprised.

Frank's frowning, coming towards me, his brows drawn. "Hey, California. Why you looking for Hunter?"

I open and close my mouth like a fish out of water, searching for something to say. He waits, impatiently tapping a foot. "Um, well-" I say, looking around as if words will magically appear out of the air, "Um, I need to uh- I have to talk to him about something."

Frank raises an eyebrow. I continue, flustered. "About Lindsey. You know, he's building her a shed in the yard and um, there's a couple things-"

"I thought the shed was done." He says. Why, oh why is this Frank's time to be observant?

"Well, actually," I clarify, "There are a few problems, and I just need to find him so-"

Frank smiles, crossing his arms. "Why's it so urgent? Shed can wait for a couple hours. Come have brunch with me."

I run a hand through my hair, trapped. How exactly am I supposed to get rid of Frank and find Aubrey? "That's really nice," I say, "But I can't- I just really have to find Aubrey-"

Frank's getting exasperated. "Why? What's with you and Hunter? I swear, it's almost like you like him or something."

I can't help the blush that suffuses my face. Frank sees it. "What? You do? Are you serious-"

"Frank," I interupt, "no, it's nothing like that, I just need to find Aubrey."

Frank's looking at me distrustfully and is obviously not going to let it drop. I sigh, frustrated. "Okay, fine, if you don't want to tell me where he is, I'll just go find him myself-"

I start to walk away but Frank pulls me back. "No, wait, California. Come on, I'm sure it can't be that urgent. You can spare an hour or two, can't you? I haven't seen you in ages."

I roll my eyes, tugging my arm away. "Frank, it's been two days, less."

He grins. "That's a long time for me. Come on, please? It'll be fun, promise."

"No!" I yell, sharper than I meant to be. He looks surprised, hurt. "I'm sorry Frank, but not right now. I really have to go."

I start to walk away again and this time he doesn't bother to pull me back.

"I'd swear there's something between you and that kid." He calls out to my back. "And he's not who you think he is."



I switch directions, going to the rock, after I finally escape from Frank. It seems like he suspects; how much of that was spur-of-the- moment anger at my refusal to go to brunch with him, I don't know. But his last words can't help gnawing at me; Aubrey's not who I think he is? What is that supposed to mean?

I shake the thought out of my head and look up to see Aubrey's red truck, glinting in the afternoon sun, parked right by the great sandstone rock. He's sitting in it, nodding his head to the blaring rock music drifting out of the windows and almost vibrating the truck.

"Aubrey!" I yell, heading towards him.

He doesn't hear me. I run all the way up to the truck, banging on the side of the door. "Hey! Aubrey!"
He jumps with a start and swiftly turns down the radio, turning to me. "Yeah? Are you okay?"

He takes in my red, sweaty, huffing and puffing countenance and frowns. "What happened with Lindsey?"

I lean against the side of the truck, trying to catch my breath. "She wants to talk to you. I explained everything to her, I think she might actually understand if you go over and you know, exert your usual charm."

Even at this tumultous moment, Aubrey is still Aubrey. He raises an eyebrow with a crooked grin. "My usual charm?" He repeats, laughing eyes. "Why thank you, Aurora. Finally you admit that you're not oblivious to it." He pretends to gaze soulfully into the distance. "Ah, I've waited for this moment for so long."

I smack him through the window, though I'm laughing. "Aubrey, could you please focus?"

He composes his face, nodding pompously. "Focus, yes. Alright then. I shall focus my attention at the matter at hand."

I sigh, relieved. "Finally. You have the attention span of a goldfish, seriously."

Aubrey pretends to be affronted. "What! How dare you!" He pats the passenger seat. "Come on in, my fair lady, and we shall confront the angry dragon at her lair."

I roll my eyes and climb in, and he starts the truck. Aubrey can be dumb, but he makes me laugh. "By the way," I say, as we roll away from the rock, gaining speed in a whirl of orange dust, "Frank has his eye on you."

This captures his attention. "What? How do you know?"

"I met him at the oasis while I was looking for you." I say, blushing. "He was sort of upset, and he accused me of liking you." And of Aubrey being something besides what I think he is, but I don't mention that part. Aubrey narrows his eyes.

"Thompson should just mind his own business." He turns to me, grinning. "Though it is fun to watch him grovel over you and not even bother hiding his dislike for me. Poor guy's fighting a losing battle."

"Yeah, well, he was acting really weird."

"Wait, you said he was upset?" Aubrey asks, raising an eyebrow at me. "Why?"

My blush becomes deeper, and I stare at the carpeted floor as I speak. "He asked me to go to brunch with him, you know, and I said no, and he got kinda annoyed."

"Oh yeah? What'd he say?"

I raise my eyes to Aubrey. "Nothing, really, that matters. Poor Frank. I really feel bad about him."

Aubrey rolls his eyes. "What's there to feel bad about? Poor sucker can't take a hint."

The truck stops as we reach Lindsey's, blue gleaming in the sun. We climb out, slamming the doors behind us. Aubrey pauses on the porch.

"Does she want us both, or just me?" He asks, nervously eyeing the screen door.

"I think it'd be better if it was just you."

He nods, but a swift smile breaks over his face. "Wish me luck." He says.

With a kiss he vanishes into the house.


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