The Dark Light of Day(10)

By: T.M. Frazier

I raised my joint into the air so he could see that it was the getting lit part and not the wanting to be attacked by coyotes that I was up to. I breathed out the smoke I was holding deep inside my lungs. It burned, but I didn’t cough. Owen laughed. “I was hoping it was that one.” He put the truck in park, leaned over and opened the passenger door. “Get on in, girl, and pass that shit.”

I wouldn’t exactly call Owen my friend, but I could’ve put him on the short list of people who didn’t make me cringe with either fear or anger when they spoke. At least not too much. I made up my mind to get into his truck when the hundredth mosquito of the night started making a meal of my arm through my sleeves. At the rate they were biting, it wouldn’t be long before I had no blood left.

Owen reached down and offered his hand to help me up. I shook my head, refusing his assistance, and leapt up into the truck like I was mounting a horse. I put one foot on the bottom lip of the tire, and I swung my other foot over the top of it before I shifted sideways and slid my ass into the bucket seat.

“Impressive,” Owen said, acknowledging my useless skill. I was more impressed by my ability to yet again avoid human contact. “Even Billy Rae still needs my help to get up in here. Then again, that fat-ass has an extra seventy-five pounds on him that gravity doesn’t like to give up on so easily.”

I passed him the joint and he took a long hit, blowing the smoke out of his nose and mouth.

Owen put the truck in drive and started back down the dark road. The humming of the huge tires on the sketchy pavement echoed inside the cabin of the truck. The dashboard vibrated and the blue light of the clock became blurrier as Owen increased speed.

“Uncle Cole told me what happened to your granny. I’m sorry,” Owen said, as he passed the joint back to me. The sudden change in conversation caught me off guard. Owen’s apology sounded genuine, but the mention of Nan’s name brought back a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I pushed it out and shrugged my shoulders.

“Thanks,” I said before I changed the subject. “What are you doing out here anyway? Don’t you got some girls to be chasing?”

Owen laughed. “Abby, Abby.” He put his hand over his heart and feigned being hurt. “You know the ladies come to me, not the other way around. The only skirt I ever chased was yours, sophomore year, and I do recall you telling me—and I’m quoting now—’You’re not my type, Owen, and you never will be’!” He spoke my part in a high-pitched feminine voice, but his attempt at mimicking me sounded more like Julia Child’s voice than it did mine.

“I said that?” I asked, even though I knew damn well I had. I also remembered telling him to fuck off, and all he did was stand there and laugh like he’d never been told off before, like my refusal was amusing to him.

“Oh yes, you did. You broke my poor little hillbilly heart that day.” He stuck out his bottom lip in a phony pout.

“Okay. I may have said that, but I sure as hell don’t sound like that.”

“That’s true. Your voice is much lower and much, much angrier.” This time he used a voice closer to Cookie Monster when he recited my rejection.

“Well see, that worked out for the best, ’cause here we are, still…friends?” I used the term ‘friends’ for lack of a word describing “a person who didn’t disgust me as much as others.”

“Of course, we’re friends, Abby.” Owen flashed his big, brilliant, straight-toothed white smile. I could see how girls fell at his feet. Girls who were interested in boys, anyway. I certainly was not one of them—not that I was into girls or anything. Sometimes, I’d think I just wasn’t put together like everyone else was. Other times I’d think that I was put together the same way they were, only they’d been left whole while I’d been torn down and put back together over and over again.

Most kids in my high school were into cheerleading and football, trucks and fishing, and the rodeo. Most of all, they were into each other.

The only thing I was into was self-preservation.

But if you were a normal teenage girl, you definitely would’ve thought Owen was a good-looking guy. His emerald green eyes were so brilliant they looked like colored contacts. His skin was tanned from spending most of his days out on his fishing boat. Casting fishing nets all day was no doubt the reason for his well-developed biceps and forearms that flexed as he turned the wheel.

The roads were so dark even the headlights didn’t seem like they did much to light up the night. Owen had grown up in Coral Pines and probably knew those roads like the back of his hand. He probably could’ve driven them without any lights on at all.

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