Famous in a Small Town(5)

He waved and continued on down the street.

* * *

It wasn’t that I had forgotten about the encounter at McDonald’s on Saturday—meeting Kyle’s brother for the first time. But come Tuesday night, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I laid Harper down in her crib.

I had spent the evening getting her fed and keeping her occupied as you did an almost-one-year-old. I put the Conlins’ dog, Shepherd, out in the backyard so Harper and I could have some quality floor time. We looked at some books. We played with some toys and her favorite puppet: a black glove with a plush spider body on top (it made your fingers look like the spider legs, and it legitimately blew her mind). I got her in her jammies and sang her a made-up song about the ocean (Harper and me, swimming in the sea, with the turtles and the dolphins and the fishy fishy fishies). I held her and we danced around the room she shared with Cadence as I sang, turning in little circles until eventually she rested her head in the crook of my neck with a soft thunk.

I laid her down, switched on her night-light, peeked once more at her in the crib—her eyelids were drooping—then slipped out of the room and left the door cracked a bit.

So I didn’t forget the encounter entirely, but it didn’t spring to mind either that night. That’s why when I swung around the corner into the kitchen and saw someone standing there, I let out an unholy yelp. I didn’t register that it was August, Kyle’s brother, standing in front of the open fridge and eating out of a Tupperware. All I registered was stranger danger.

He jerked in surprise and promptly dropped the Tupperware.

“Jesus,” he said, clapping a hand to his chest.

“What are you doing?” I said, which didn’t exactly make sense in the moment but came out all the same.

“I was eating.” He blinked. “What are you doing?”

I had frozen in a weird defensive stance, which I apparently no longer needed to hold, now that the threat had been identified. “I thought you were an intruder.”

“I’m not.” Amusement shone in his eyes.

“Well, I know that now,” I said. “You should announce yourself when you walk in somewhere.”

“I didn’t know anyone was home.”

“You thought Harper was watching herself?”

“I mean, she does seem pretty independent for a baby. I saw her change the oil on the car yesterday.”

“Yeah, but she always forgets to coat the gasket.”

He grinned and then looked down to where the remains of the lasagna we had for dinner were spread across the floor.

“Sorry,” he said, grin vanishing. “Sorry about that.” He grabbed the roll of paper towels off the counter. I crouched down to help him clean.

“Were you eating cold lasagna?” I asked, scooping pasta remains into the Tupperware while he wiped up the trail of sauce.


“But the microwave is right there. Love yourself.”

“I like it better cold.”


“Warm lasagna is too”—he waved a hand—“disorganized.”

“What?” I repeated.

“It holds together better cold. It’s more cohesive.”

“Are you working on some kind of seminar about this?”

“Yup. Yeah. I am, actually. I’m the world’s foremost cold-lasagna scholar.”

August glanced up at me, and I couldn’t explain it, but I was struck with that brand-new-box-of-crayons feeling. Every color pristine, every as-of-yet-uncolored picture a tantalizing possibility.

Acadia High School was by no means huge—there were ninety-six kids in the upcoming senior class. Over the course of my past eleven years in the Acadia school system, I had had a handful of crushes. In seventh grade, Peyton Simms and I went to the Valentine’s dance together (we shared one awkward slow dance and then retreated to opposite sides of the gym). Sophomore year, Logan Turner and I hung out a few times, and kissed by the baseball field in Fairview Park (we called it quits a few days later).

That was okay. Not everyone could manage to spin out new romantic entanglements every other week like Brit did, or get together with their actual literal future spouse in high school, like Heather and Kyle. I was so busy with band, and school stuff, college applications, work. I could wait until college.

But I wasn’t super opposed to the idea of not doing that, should the opportunity arise.

August gave the floor a final swipe and then tore off another sheet of paper towel, handing it to me. My fingers were covered in sauce from picking up pasta pieces.

“So, uh.” I wiped my hands as he picked up the Tupperware and took it over to the trash can to empty it. “How long are you visiting for?”

“Not sure,” he said, his back to me.

“Kind of open-ended, then?”

“Sort of.” A pause. “It’s just temporary.”

“Like for the summer?”

Brit would inevitably make a joke about summer lovin’. She would be relentless. I was okay with that.

Before August could respond, there was a cry, suddenly, from Harper’s room. I got to my feet. “Be right back,” I said, pitching the paper towel into the trash and heading away.

* * *

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