From the trees I could tell we were only about a block from my house. Daniel and I were the last in the convoy as we had been the last to leave. Tyson, Skye, Jake and Shellby were first, Ashley and Chance were in the middle. I wasn't sure how that happened as Chance loved being first, but not long after leaving the lake I had stretched out across the seat. My head pressed next to Daniel's right leg.
"Can I know the secrets of the rock," he asked pushing my hair back from my eyes.
"What?" I responded indignantly.
"Tyson and Jake both know what goes on at the rock. I think it's fair that I should know."
I smirked, "Why is it fair that you should know? Because you've reached boyfriend status? That's really shallow for you to date just to know that Ashley is madly in love with Chance, Skye still sleeps with a nightlight when she is up after three, and Shellby once threw up on a guy that she liked."
"I didn't need to know all that." Daniel made a face, reacting to the Shellby anecdote. "I meant what you say. What is the whole 'queen' thing about?"
"Why haven't you pried it out of Tyson and Jake?"
"Like I didn't try that, those boys are worse than girls when it comes to keeping secrets. So do I get to know?"
I grabbed the hand he kept running through my hair. I put it over my mouth before shaking my head. He flicked my nose lightly before placing both hands on the wheel. I heard the signal come on, home sweet home. I groaned quietly as I sat up.
"Oh shush, you get to stay here. I still have to drive home." Daniel poked my side. I childishly stuck my tongue out at him.
I went under the seat to grab my bag and all the other stuff I'd gather whilst at the beach. My bag was at one end with its contents lying far from it. I shoved everything carelessly in the direction of the bag. I heard Daniel walking around the back, the gravel in my driveway scattering as his feet hit the pebbles unevenly. I reached sitting position before he opened the door.
I raised both brows as he opened the door.
"Is there a reason you look like you've been doing something wrong?" Daniel smiled.
"No," it sounded more like a question as my pitch changed.
"So why did Shellby puke on this guy?"
I looked toward the door. They were all standing there waiting for me. Che had locked it, more than likely.
"She was going to tell him she liked him and she had a dance recital in twenty minutes. She was so nervous that when this guy walked up to her she had a nerve overload and tossed her breakfast."
I looked back at Skye as Daniel helped me out of his truck. She made eye contact with me and immediately began walking towards a tree. Skye appeared to be dazed as she pulled my house key with the Superman "s" printed on it from the tree's depth. I blinked and Skye turned back to me. I don't know whose expression was more bemused.
They let themselves in as Daniel and I came up the drive, hand in hand.
"It's really convenient that Skye is such a stalker and knows where the key is," Chance joshed as Daniel and I reached the door.
"Oh, shut up, Chance, you're not exactly a ninja when you creep to Ashley's window." Skye countered, smirking.
"Hey, hey, hey, no bloodshed in the kitchen. My family still has to eat food out of here." Chance gave me a look as I walked up to him. "Don't glare at me like that. Take it up stairs, Skye and I will get drinks."
"We'll help, Dennie." Ashley put in, Shellby nodded agreement.
The boys walked upstairs. Daniel, in a no hurry stride, Chance racing Jake, and Tyson taking the end the older and more "mature" of the four. Tyson had told me once that being at the end he could shove them all up the stairs when they started being stupid. I asked him why he didn't do that more often. Chance had shot me a glare. I socked his shoulder.
"It really would've only taken Skye and me. You could've gone up there." I said.
Ashley nodded, hesitantly, as she pulled water bottles out of the fridge. "I kind of wanted to talk to all of ya'll about something."
We gathered around the island. An impromptu round table placing Shellby and Ashley on the ends with Skye and me on either side. I watched Ashley swallow a few times, opening and closing her mouth repeatedly. We all waited silent as some thudding began overhead.
"Ash, what do you have to say?" Shellby prompted.
"I had a strange dream too. It felt more real to me than anything. And frankly it scared the crap out of me."
I looked at Skye. She hadn't said anything about a weird dream. I wanted to forget about mine. It weirded me out that most of my friends and I had almost plummeted to our deaths. But we'd play this game.
"Did you have a weird dream?" I nodded at Skye.
Skye took her precious time opening her water bottle. She gulped down water like we'd trekked through the desert to get to it. "It wasn't weird, exactly. All of us met up for breakfast and then Tyson went back to school because he had summer courses. And then Dennie drove me to the airport where I boarded a flight to Kansas."
"That's it?" Shellby asked. She looked perplexed like she was expecting a more thrilling tale. I faced Ashley. Her mask was one of confusion.
"Do you plan on spending all your time down here?" Tyson poked his head around the last banister on the staircase. "Chance is going through your things, by the way." He nodded at me.
"Did he say why?" I sighed.
"So Daniel, and I quote, knows what he's getting into."
"Oh, I'm going to kill him. Seriously this time."
The four of us knocked beverages and followed Tyson up the stairs. I took them two at a time bursting through the door a half second before Tyson. The pictures leading up to my door blurred. All the smiling faces of my "ancestors", the people framed in black and white looked nothing like my family. Their noses too wide, eyes too small, they were all wrong.
"Interesting underwear, Dennie," Chance was bent over my dresser. I inhaled deeply. Killing him wasn't an option, beating him to a pulp was still allowable.
"It's good you don't even hide it. That lessens your punishment." I smacked him upside the head. I saw Daniel sit up on the bed, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.
"Come on, Dennie. I'm just making sure my little brother knows what he's getting himself into. Don't you think that's fair?"
"No," I slapped him again. "Get away from my clothes, half-wit."
He took another peek into the drawer. "You call those clothes?"
I kicked his kneecap and shoved him away from my bureau. I closed all the drawers and tossed a drink to Daniel. He caught it with a wink.
"So how long are you going to torment me Chance?" I asked while climbing onto my bed.
"I don't know. It depends," Chance smirked taking a spot at the foot of my bed.
Shellby and Ashley climbed on top of my desk, with Jake in my desk chair. Tyson and Skye sat against the wall on the cot I had there.
My room reeked of teenage decorating skills. I had posters haphazardly taped everywhere. The cot holding Tyson and Skye right now stayed unfolded all summer in case one of the girls swung by and wanted to spend the night. I had one large bulletin board covering half of my largest wall; there wasn't an inch of board left. Pictures ran edge to edge. My bureau was the second largest piece of furniture. My bed was the first.
"What time is Mom getting home?" Skye asked, sipping from her water bottle.
I shrugged, "Shellby, will you toss me my bag? My cell phone is in there. She probably left me a message."
It was Mom's style to call when she figured out what time she would be home. She'd leave a message clipped and screaming, like she expected me to be sitting in a club somewhere unable to hear her. I had five new voicemails according to my screen. The only people who called me, besides my family (Mom, Dad, and Che) were sitting in the room. I'd been with them all day.
I found the message from Mom, skipping over the others, they could wait.
"Denise, I'll be home around two, tell the girls I said goodnight. Tell the boys I said goodbye. Love you," I waited for the line to go dead. There was some commotion in the background and then the line clicked.
"Two," I declared closing my phone.
"So we have exactly one hour and thirty minutes," Tyson stared at his watch.
"Don't sound so eager Tyson, it's insulting." I smirked.
We'd often wondered how much of us Tyson could really handle. We were juniors in high school when Skye and he first met. He was a freshman at University of Texas, Arlington edition. They'd met when Skye got lost on campus while looking for the parking lot. She'd driven there for the first time, and she lost her bearings. She literally ran into Tyson. He asked her out on the spot. It's the cutest story ever; the girls and I were in agreement.
"Oh be quiet," he shook his head. Tyson turned out to be a big teenager. Skye and he have been dating for two years and never once have they argued about hanging out with a group of high schoolers.
"Okay first things first, Mom already expects you girls to spend the night, so are you?" I asked, breaking off the chatter for a few seconds.
"I packed extra clothes," Ashley stated.
"Me too," Shellby and Skye agreed.
"So did I," Daniel tried.
"Yeah, she expects you to be leaving. But good try." I laughed.
Daniel pinched my side lightly. I watched Chance roll his eyes and felt bad. He could get Ashley if he just paid attention. Or if he just said something, rather than be a chicken, if Chance applied himself he could be a happy couple. I tossed him a sympathetic glance when he next looked at me while the commotion was the highest.
Tyson was telling us stories of him and his college buddies. They lasted until one, and then Tyson dropped a bomb.
"I have some summer classes I signed up for. They told me I was wait-listed and then I suddenly made it. They start the first Monday in July."
I looked at Skye. She didn't seem phased at all by the news. Clearly, Tyson leaving didn't click with anything in her memory. The chatter picked up again. Everyone telling stories, related and not, I was immensely glad Che wasn't home because we would've woken her up.
"Time check!" I called after Chance told a particularly disgusting story.
"One-forty-five," Tyson answered, the boys were smirking knowing that all of us girls were completely put off by Chance's story. The guys passed around a glance.
"You know her mom is probably on her way home already," Daniel said from behind me. I looked at Chance in time to see him frown and look at his hands.
"We'll be off." Jake announced grabbing Shellby's hand, lifting her off the desk. They would walk outside to say their goodnights. Tyson beamed at Skye before pulling her up and walking her to the kitchen, their hands linked. I gazed at Ashley sitting on the desk. Her expression of disappointment made me feel sad. I kicked Chance with my toe. He looked up at me furrowing his brow. I widened my eyes before tossing my head in Ashley's direction.
Chance stood up almost immediately, he helped Ashley off the desk and they walked out my door together. I'd get the details later.
"You're so nosy," Daniel whispered in my ear, breaking my chain of thought.
"I am not nosy, I'm helpful. I'm also a little bit impatient." I grinned at Daniel. Tonight would officially go down in the books as one of the best nights of my life. "What are your plans for tomorrow?"
"Aside from sleeping you mean," Daniel said pulling me off the bed. "I have no idea. Why?"
"Tomorrow is the annual end of the year boat trip with all of the Pattersons. It will be a day full of loud talking, ice cold soda, and even colder water, of course." I beamed at Daniel's back.
"Is that an invitation?" Daniel asked as he opened the door to leave the house.
"Depends," I winked. "Do you want to come?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," He grabbed both my hands as he watched Chance pull out of the drive. I watched the girls go back in the house. "Thanks for today, I haven't had this much fun since the last time we hung out. Although being able to kiss you definitely tripled that," Daniel stared into the woods like he was actually computing the math. I giggled like a lovesick dork.
"I'll see you tomorrow. Night, Dee." Daniel kissed both my hands before dropping them and pecking my cheek.
"Night," I whispered.
I was booted to the couch when I got back to the house. Skye was in my bed, already spread out. Ashley had scrunched herself up against the wall, sharing the cot with Shellby. Any attempt to move Skye over would result in a broken nose or a black eye, depending on the swing. I carried out my blanket and pillow to the couch in the living room down the hall.
And I nearly met my death, riding in a glass elevator, plummeting to the ground.