Just a warning to everyone! This is rated T, but just a heads up – the f-bomb is dropped a few times throughout the course of this story. It's not excessive (at least, Idon't think it is), but if that bothers you then you probably shouldn't read this. If it doesn't, then read on and hopefully you'll like it! :)

I lift my face up towards the blue sky and close my eyes, enjoying the warmth that the sun beats down on me. It is blissfully quiet; the only noise disturbing the air is the rustling of the pages turning as Ana flips through the most recent issue of Cosmopolitan. I breathe in deeply and exhale slowly, then open my eyes. Man, I love North Carolina.

Ana, Maddy, and I are the only people out this afternoon, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. It's the perfect temperature; a slight breeze is blowing, and big, white, puffy clouds are lazily drifting across the sky. The grass is lush and green underneath my turquoise beach towel, and I couldn't be happier. My battered copy of Pillars of the Earth is laying open on my lap, Finn, my golden retriever, is fast asleep by my side, and Rue is laying on her back on the corner of my towel, her small belly rising and falling with each breath. I resist the urge to stroke her soft white fur. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything that's as cute as a sleeping chinchilla.

Even my sister Maddy is dozing, spread out on her stomach beside Ana, resting her head on her forearms. Hmm, I should wake her up within the next ten minutes; otherwise she'll get an uneven tan. Both she and Ana are wearing bikinis, hoping to start working on getting that golden brown shade that sooner or later everybody around here has. Personally, I'm not a fan of lying outside my house wearing a swimsuit when we don't even have a pool, so I opt for a tank top and shorts instead.

"Huh," Ana says, breaking the silence. She lies on her stomach with her ankles crossed and her feet in the air as she peers down at her magazine in interest. "It says here that if a guy kisses you for longer than ten seconds, he has sex on his brain."

"Wow," I remark, not really all that interested. Ethan kisses me for longer than ten seconds most of the time, and I don't need a magazine to tell me what's on his mind.

Suddenly the silence is disrupted, causing me to jump, Finn to leap to his feet, and Maddy to sit up. Ana and Rue are the only ones who don't move as we discover the source of the noise. An old-fashioned red Mustang convertible is turning onto the street and coming towards us, blaring "American Woman." A blonde teenager sits in the driver's seat, his head moving to the music. In the passenger seat, there is a golden retriever. The backseat of the car is smothered in a variety of cardboard boxes. What the hell?

"American woman, stay away from mee, American woman, mama let me bee, don't come hanging around my door, I don't want to see your face no more!"

The kid's eyes are covered by sunglasses, so if he is glancing in our direction as he drives by, I can't tell. Still singing along to his music, he pulls into the driveway of old Mr. and Mrs. Anderson's place. He turns the car off, hops out, and whistles a short, high-pitched note to the young dog still sitting in the car. It doesn't hesitate in jumping out of the car and going to his side.

As the guy walks to the side of his car and begins digging through the backseat, Maddy asks, "Who is that?"

Ana looks up, takes in the short, messy, golden hair and the black Back to the Future t-shirt and pops her gum. She looks back down at her magazine.

"A nerd," she says in a bored voice.

"He's a hot nerd," Maddy says.

Her eyes never leave him as he pulls one box out of the backseat and balances it on his hip with one hand. He begins fishing through his backseat for more stuff, and he pulls out a plain, old, slightly battered guitar case. Maddy gasps.

"He's a hot, nerdy musician!"

Great, she sounds interested. Judging by the amount of stuff he has, this guy is staying here for more than a few days. If my sister already has her eyes on him, then this going to be a long summer. The guy disappears inside the Andersons' house for a moment.

"I thought you liked your guys with muscles," I point out, trying to deter Maddy.

She shrugs, staring intently at the front door he just walked through.

"I do," she says. "But a guy with a face that gorgeous doesn't need muscles."

"Please, Maddy!" I say as he comes back outside and continues to carry boxes inside the house. "You can't even see half of his face. What if he's cross-eyed or something?"

"Please, Devon!" Maddy says, mimicking me. "Everyone knows that cross-eyed people can't drive…geez."

As Maddy begins to babble, I roll my eyes and start reading my book again.

"I wonder why he's here...is he their grandson or something? How long is he staying? Do you think he'll be around the whole summer? How could I introduce myself? Do you think I could just walk over there and say, 'Hi, I'm Maddy?' No, that sounds stupid…"

She continues to talk along those lines, and I just drown her out. Five pages later, Finn suddenly grows tense beside me and begins wagging his tail. I can't exactly ignore him when his tail is hitting me in the face repeatedly. Slightly annoyed, I look up and see that the other golden retriever is standing there, shaking its' tail too as it stares at Finn. The next thing I know, the dog is running towards us. Rue sees it coming and leaps into my lap, curling herself into a tight furry ball. She's not used to being around any dog that's not Finn.

The two dogs begin running and playing right next to us, and I look up as a door slams. The boy appears, looking around, most likely for his dog. I realize that his car is empty, and he's finished moving his stuff into the house.

He sees the two masses of golden fur rolling around on the grass and flashes us a quick, nervous smile.

"Cassie!" he calls.

She doesn't respond and continues to devote all of her attention to Finn. The guy sighs, walks over to us, and takes a gentle hold of Cassie's collar. The dog immediately stops playing and stands next to him, wagging her tail and looking up at him adoringly.

He still has his sunglasses on, which makes it hard to read his expression, but he sounds apologetic as he says, "Sorry about that, she's normally pretty good about listening."

Maddy waves her hand dismissively as she sits up, smiling at him. Over the top of my book I notice that she leans back on her hands, stretching her body out and making her stomach look even flatter than it already is. At the same time, she's sticking out her chest. Where does she learn this stuff? I certainly haven't taught her that.

Damn Cosmo.

"Oh that's okay. I'm Maddy, this is Ana, and that's my sister, Devon," Maddy says, pointing to each of us in turn. "What's your name?"

He pushes his sunglasses up to the top of his head and his eyes meet mine briefly. He holds my gaze long enough for me to note the beautiful color of his eyes, which are the perfect shade of sky blue. His nose is perfectly straight and he has a strong, angular jaw. Okay, so Maddy was right: he definitely has a good face. He looks away from me in the next second and instead turns his attention to Maddy.

In all seriousness, he says, "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

I can barely manage to keep a straight face as I see Ana looking at him with new eyes. Maddy also seems impressed.

"Whoa," she breathes.

I roll my eyes as I see this "Maximus Decimus Meridius" soaking up the attention.

"Relax, Mad; he's quoting Gladiator."

Maddy turns her head to look at me, and then she looks back at him for confirmation. He smiles at me and shrugs his shoulders.

"She's right. My name really is Max, though. Max Anderson," he says with a smile as he shakes hands with Maddy first and then Anna.

I'm sitting several feet behind the others and am too lazy to stand up and formally shake his hand, so I just give him a little wave. He catches my eye and studies me curiously for a moment.

"I think I've seen you before," he says.

We have never seen each other before. I know it, he knows it. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, I play along.

"What was I doing?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.

"Reading a book."

"Then it must have been me."

His face breaks into an even bigger smile, and there's silence as Maddy looks back and forth between us.

"So…" she says. "What brings you to Colby, Max?"

He strokes Cassie's ears absentmindedly as he answers.

"I wanted a change from the city, and I thought this would be the best place. My grandparents live next door; I'll be staying with them."

"For how long?" Maddy asks.

Max shrugs and says, "Who knows? Could be a week, could be a year."

"Oh, mysterious," Ana says sarcastically.

Max grins.

"I try."

"Do you need someone to show you around town, Max?" Maddy asks.

Oh Maddy, Maddy, Maddy…

"Actually, yeah, I do. I got a quick glance at it as I drove through, but I'd like to take a closer look," Max says.

"Great!" Maddy exclaims, jumping to her feet. "I'll take you on a tour! Just let me put some clothes on."

Yeah, Mad, that would be good. In fact, that would be much better than you walking around in a bikini with some strange guy. Although to his credit he keeps his eyes trained on Maddy's face. As Maddy starts to head into the house, a thought strikes me.

"Maddy!" I call, stopping her in her tracks. "You promised Zoe that you would help her redecorate her Barbie house today."

Maddy turns back around to face me, looking disappointed.

"I'll do it when I get back."

"She'll be tired by then."

Maddy looks at me and her blue eyes flit to Max's face before landing back on me. We stare at each other for a moment. She better not disappoint Zoe and if I know her, she won't. If there's one thing we've been working on together for the past five years, it's making our little sister as happy as possible.

Maddy sighs and says, "Sorry, Max, I can't."

She gives him a sad smile and a little wave and disappears inside the house. Max looks down at Anna instead, giving her a questioning look. She sits up and shakes her head.

"No way, buddy. It's a long way home, and I gotta get going."

She stands up, grabs her towel and her magazine, and says, "Bye, Devon."

Max and I both watch her as she enters the house directly across the street from mine. Max stares at the closed front door for a moment, then shakes his head. He turns to me. I know what's coming, and I shake my head before he can even get the question out.

"Why don't you ask your grandparents to show you around? I've talked to both of them before, and they are extremely nice people."

"Yeah, I've noticed that. But I think that I'll learn more if my tour guide is an actual native Colby teenager."

I open my mouth to tell him no, but before I can get the word out he adds, "Please?"

He looks so pitiful; how can I say no?

"Fine," I grumble. "I have to take Finn for a walk anyway."

"Great!" He says, smiling.

I pick Rue up from my lap and set her on my shoulder, her favorite place to ride when we go on a walk. Yes, my chinchilla is awesome.

I dart inside the house and grab Finn's leash from the table in the main hallway.

"I'm taking Finn for a walk!" I call. Nobody answers me, but then again, they never do.

I head back outside and see Max walking back across the lawn, and I notice that he's put Cassie back inside his grandparents' house. I give him a questioning look.

"She's had a lot of excitement today," he says. "I don't want to wear her out."

"Whatever," I say, clipping the leash to Finn's collar.

I start off down the sidewalk in the direction of town, and Max walks beside me. For the first time I notice that he's tall. Not as tall as Ethan, but he must be around six feet, because I'm eyelevel with his adams apple, and I'm 5'6.

He's staring at me peculiarly, and I look at him.


"Is that a chinchilla on your shoulder?"

Did he only just notice the white, furry thing riding next to my right ear?

"Yeah, her name's Rue."

"Like in the Hunger Games?"

I'm shocked.

"How'd you know?" I ask. "Most people just automatically assume I named her Roo, as in a kangaroo. Why would I name my chinchilla after a kangaroo? That doesn't even make sense."

"I read the Hunger Games not too long ago, and I figured that you seem like the type of person to name her animals after literary characters," he answers, shrugging. "What I can't figure out is the name 'Finn,' though. Is it meant to be like Huckleberry Finn?"

"Nah, my sister named him, and she just liked the name."

We walk in silence for a short while. I'm a person who likes silence. I talk a lot, sure, but a lot of times I don't say much if I feel like there's nothing to be said. Generally I save my periods of silence for when I'm with someone I'm comfortable around, someone who understands that not every moment needs to be taken up with meaningless chatter. But now? Now's just awkward, and it's growing even more awkward as each minute passes.

"I'm awkward!" I blurt out.

"What?" Max asks, sounding surprised.

I glance at him out of the corner of my eye to see that he's looking at me oddly. I stare straight ahead as we continue walking, my cheeks burning.

"I'm awkward. I don't know why, but I'm just an awkward person. And I feel like it'll be better if I just tell you, so that you know and won't be surprised when something extremely awkward happens because of me."

"Okay," he says simply.

That's it?

I hesitate before repeating, "Okay."

There's a moment of silence again as we turn right at the intersection at the entrance to our development. I clear my throat and begin to speak.

"There's the pharmacy, the grocery store, and the gas station," I say, pointing out each building as I name it. "Across the street is the diner, and The Alco-Hole, the only bar around."

"The Alco-Hole?" Max asks.

"Yep. You'll discover that our town loves puns. You'll also discover that kids love to hang outside of the bar and poke the drunks with sticks when they come outside."

"Hmm, sounds fun."

"Oh, it is."

Max peers through the windows of the old-fashioned diner and asks, "Do teenagers hang out in there a lot?"

"Yeah, I guess. There's really not much to do around this town, so any place with a juke box, greasy food, and pinball machines is popular with the high-schoolers."

We continue strolling through town, letting Finn mark his territory every so often. I point out the different stores and such.

"How old are you, Devon?" Max asks out of the blue.

"Sixteen," I answer, surprised. "Why?"

"Do you drive?"

What's with the questions?

"No. Again: why?"

"I'm just curious about my new neighbor," Max answers. He smiles. "Is that a crime?"

"I guess not. How old are you?"

"Sixteen. Why don't you drive?"

I shrug.

"I never saw the need. It's a small town, and the exercise of walking doesn't hurt. Plus Zoe, Maddy, and I get to spend quality time together as we walk to school."

Max kicks a pebble with the toe of his converse.

"Who's Zoe?"

"Our five-year-old sister. She's great."

It occurs to me that he probably doesn't care about these things, and so I should probably just stop talking about my personal life.

"Sorry, I'll shut up," I say.

Max stops. Instinctively I stop too and turn to face him. He looks down at me and chuckles.

"What?" I ask defensively.

"Don't be so self-conscious," he tells me. "If I didn't want to know, I wouldn't be asking. Okay?"

"Yeah," I say, nodding.


He starts walking again and after a half-second's hesitation, I catch up to him.

"I could teach you how to drive, you know," he says.

"In your car?"



"Why do you sound so surprised?"

"It's nothing, I guess," I say, looking down as I wrap and unwrap Finn's leash around my hands. "I once asked my boyfriend to teach me, and he told me that he didn't want me to wreck his truck."

"Oh. Well, my car's a piece of shit anyway. It would probably do it some good if it crashed into a lamppost."

I don't see him smile, but I can tell by his voice that he is. And I know for a fact that his car is not a "piece of shit." It actually looks like a classic…

I suddenly trip over a slab of raised sidewalk and I barely manage to catch myself before I fall on my face. Rue's claws dig into my shoulder and the cloth of my tank top as she holds on. As I straighten again, I realize that Max's hand is on my elbow, and he's chuckling.

"We'll start the driving lessons once you've mastered the walking bit, okay?"

I stand up straight once more, blushing at my own stupid clumsiness, and it occurs to me that he borrowed that line from Gregory's Girl.

"You like movies?" I ask.

"How'd you guess?" he asks, smiling and gesturing down at his Back to the Future t-shirt. "Yes, I like movies. I guess you can consider me as some kind of movie guru."

I raise my eyebrows at him. To call himself a "movie guru," he must be pretty confident in his abilities. Let's test him, shall we?

"So what happened, were you bored in Manchester?"

Max stops and looks at me.

"You really want to do this?" he asks, a small smile playing on his lips.

I grin back at him.

"Yeah, I really want to do this."

He sighs and says, "Fine. You're asking for it."

He takes a deep breath.

"Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody – you're all so bored. You've had nature explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the living body explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the universe explained to you and you're bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and, like, plenty of them, and it doesn't matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it's new as long as it's new as long as it flashes and fuckin' bleeps in forty fuckin' different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I'm not fuckin' bored."

Wow. I'm speechless at how quickly he came up with the entire, correct quote. And he didn't just rush through it; oh no, he spoke it like it's a work of art that deserves to be savored. If I didn't know that he was quoting a movie, I would truly think he was speaking his mind. I wonder if he knows that he would probably make a semi-decent actor…

"I told you," he says, smiling at my stunned silence. "But how were you supposed to know that Naked is one of my favorite movies?"

"Really? Mine too. It's weird, not many people know about it, but it's really an amazing movie."

"We should watch it sometime," Max says.

Uh-oh, red flag alert. And I was having such a good time, too…

I stop and put my hand on his arm to stop him. He turns to look at me, a curious expression on his face.

"Look, Max, we—"

Realization dawns on him as I start my sentence and he gives me an easygoing smile as he stops me in my tracks.

"Devon, relax. Trust me when I say that you did a good job in letting me know that you have a boyfriend. And you should know that I'm not the type of guy to move in on another guy's girl. I'm not asking for a date, I'm not asking for a relationship. I'm just a kid who moved to a new town, looking for a place to fit in."

I feel myself relax at his words. Ever since I started dating Ethan, I've stopped looking at other boys; there's no need to scope out the field when I already have an amazing boyfriend. And now that I know Max isn't looking for a date either, we can just be two teenagers, hanging out and walking around town.

"Okay, I'm glad that's cleared up," I say.

We walk a little bit farther to the west end of town, and I point out a building I think he might like.

"Well, if you ever get in the mood for a girlfriend, there's Ludus Hall."

"What's Ludus Hall?"

"An all-girls school for grades nine through twelve. A few of the girls stay during the summer, but you'll see that come fall, Colby will be flooded with them, all walking around in their little skirts and knee-high socks."

Max views the campus with interest.

"Let me guess," he says. "They're a major hit with the guys?"

"Yep. Don't think that it's because the boys around here are high quality though. It's just that these poor girls haven't seen a real guy in ages, so as soon as one somewhat good-looking, somewhat polite boy asks them out, they say yes, not knowing what they're getting themselves into."

We stand for a moment outside of the main school building, looking up at the old, ivy-covered brick and the large glass windows.

"Shall we move on with our tour?" I ask.

Max nods, and we walk back towards the east side of town, where our high school is. Within a matter of fifteen minutes, we're standing outside of the high school. It's awful for me to be so close to it when I only just escaped it a week ago.

"So, if you do decide that Colby is to your liking and you'd like to stay here past the summer, this is the hellish place you'll be attending. Notice the utter lack of windows."

"It can't be that bad."

"That's what you think. Let's go; I have one more thing to show you before we head back."

Finn and I lead the way around the back of the high school, to the community center. As we walk by the center, I point out a group of sketchy-looking teenagers lounging under a stand of trees to Max.

"Our town is so cool that the kids deal their drugs outside the community center."

Max watches them in disbelief as he says, "Back home they saved that for the alleys."

"Yes, well, here our alleys are wide and brightly lit, and not the least bit sketchy, so obviously they don't make for good drug dealing spots."

We walk across the parking lot for the community center and across a giant field.

"This is where our marching band practices all summer long, the poor suckers. Ha, literally."

We make it to the end of the field, where a seven-foot high cement wall goes around two sides of the field and disappears along the edge of Colby Park, which is right next to the community center.

"What the hell is this?" Max asks, putting his hands out to touch the cool stone.

"This is our art wall," I tell him. "A few years ago, the police were having trouble with local kids writing graffiti all over the storefronts, which kind of disrupted our image of a quaint little town. So, since the kids obviously wanted to produce art so much, the mayor had this wall put in. People come here and draw or write whatever they want. It's worked pretty well, actually; no more graffiti."

It's one of the few things in my town that I'm extremely proud of. Max moves along the wall, looking at the painted-on pictures and poems and messages inscribed in paint, chalk, Sharpie, even crayon (which works just about as well as you would think). He reads a few of the messages aloud:

"Ryan and JJ Forever!"

"The end of the world is coming!"

"Why is this wall here?"

"I fuck arses."

He takes a step back and blinks at the wall.

"Who fucks arses?" he asks. "Maybe he fucks arses!"

I smile at him.

"A Withnail and I fan too, huh?"

"Of course," Max answers with a smile. "Would you expect anything less?"

"I guess not. Of course, I've known you for a little under two hours, so how am I supposed to know what to expect?"

Max shrugs.

"I guess you can't," he says. "I'm the king of the unexpected."

He gives me a sly grin and sticks his hands in his shorts pockets, then strolls away whistling a happy tune. Sighing, I follow him; after all, I'm the one who's going to show him the way back home. Not that it's hard to find your way around our little town, but I don't want him being picked up by the one creeper we have living here.

I can just imagine Max skipping along, all by his lonesome, when some guy with a bushy mustache pulls up in a windowless van and says, "Hey kid, I've got some candy in the back. Want to hop in?" And Max saying, "Well, golly mister, I sure would love some candy!" And he is never heard from again…

I have to admit, the thought kind of disturbs me, and I can't stop myself before I shout, "Stranger danger!"

Max stops dead and turns around to look at me.

"What?" he asks.

Within a few strides I catch up to him, and he starts walking again.

"Nothing," I mumble. "Just remember 'stranger danger,' that's all."

"Thanks for the reminder," he says dryly.

We start the walk back to our neighborhood, still silent. At first I fidget, feeling awkward and uncomfortable, desperately trying to think of something we can talk about. But Max walks right beside me, examining the buildings we pass, giving off the vibe that he's completely relaxed and at ease with everything going on around him. As the minutes slowly tick by and his body language doesn't change, I feel myself begin to relax. The quiet that I originally thought was awkward turns into companionable silence, and I'm shocked.

It takes me ages to get used to people enough that I don't feel the need to fill up every quiet moment with conversation; hell, I can't even stay quiet around Ana when it's just the two of us! So how is it that I've known this boy for only a few hours, yet here we are, perfectly comfortable with the lack of speech?

We don't talk the entire walk home. The sun is just beginning to set as we turn onto our street, and Max suddenly begins sprinting away, towards his house.

"Max! What are you doing?" I call after his retreating back.

He doesn't answer me. Finn pulls at his leash, begging for a run. Curious, I oblige and take off running down the sidewalk after Max, holding tightly onto Rue with one hand so she doesn't fall. Panting, I arrive at my porch and see no hide nor hair of Max. Sighing, I climb the steps and enter the house, unclipping Finn's leash as I go.

I can see that the lights are on in the kitchen and hear the TV in the living room. I shut the door as Finn goes bounding down the hallway and into the kitchen, looking for his dinner that Zoe has no doubt already gotten ready for him.

Dad hears the door slam and sticks his head around the corner. His short pale hair, more gray now than blonde, is disheveled and his blue eyes seem tired, but he gives me a warm smile.

"Dinner's in twenty," he says, then vanishes back into the kitchen.

I head up two flights of stairs to the third floor, deciding to drop Rue off in my room before dinner. As I walk down the hallway, I pass the door leading to Mom's old office and the door to the attic, finally making it to my room, the last door on the right.

I walk in and set Rue on my bed. She immediately jumps down onto the floor and hops over to her food plate full of grass hay in the corner, happily picking out the strands she wants to eat. I walk across my room and open the double doors leading out to my balcony. I walk out and lean against the railing, breathing in the pure, clean air that the coming night always brings with it.


I jump as someone speaks my name, and I look wildly around for the source of the voice.

"Up here."

I look up and see Max sitting cross-legged on the roof next door. The roofs of both of our houses are gradually slanted, enabling people to sit comfortably on the shingles without the fear of falling off. As I stare at him incredulously, he stretches his legs out and leans back on his hands.

"Max, what was with the running?"

He smiles at me, but doesn't answer.

"Come up," he says, patting the space beside him.

"How am I supposed to do that?"

He points to the tall tree planted directly in between our houses. The branches hang over both the east end of my balcony and the west end of the third floor balcony of the Andersons' house. I walk over to a thick-looking branch that's within my reach if I stand on my tiptoes. I get a hold of it with both of my hands, and stand there, hesitating.

"Why should I risk my neck to climb onto a roof for no good reason?"

Max's teeth flash white in the gradually falling darkness as he grins.

"Trust me."

I don't fully understand why that sentence convinces me, but it does.

I resist the urge to grumble as I test out the strength of the branch by dangling from it for five seconds or so. It stays put. With a quiet grunt I swing my legs up and onto the branch, so that I'm now hanging from my hands and feet like a sloth . I swear, I am not athletic enough for this, so what he has to show me better be good. I notice a branch a few feet above the one I'm currently hanging on, and it gives me an idea. With all of the strength I can muster, I maneuver my body so that I'm no longer hanging, but am sitting on the top of the branch.

Reaching up with both hands to get a good grip on the branch above my head, I stand up and carefully walk across the branch until I am no longer above my balcony but am above the ground three stories below.


I reach the trunk of the tree and edge around it, telling myself that I'm not afraid of heights. I find two similar branches on this side of the tree, and walk as quickly as I can without falling. After what seems like forever, I drop down onto the balcony of Max's house. I hear clapping and I look up to see Max smiling down at me from the roof.

"Very impressive," he says. "Like Catwoman minus the innate urge to mess with Batman."


I see an unused trellis leaning up against the wall.

"I'm guessing that you climb that thing to get up there?" I ask.

Max nods, saying, "Don't worry; it's bolted to the balcony. My grandfather did that after he learned my dad liked coming up here to look at the stars."

I climb up the trellis, and within no time I'm sitting on the roof. Max is laying on his back a few feet away, looking at the sky, his hands behind his head.

"So why are we—"

Max raises a finger to his lips and I shut up. I crawl over to him and lay beside him, tucking my hands underneath my head like him. I then turn my attention to the sky, and I have to stifle my gasp.

From this vantage point, there is an unobstructed view of a magnificent sunset. Hues of purple, orange, yellow, and red spread across the sky as the fiery sun sinks slowly towards the horizon. I've lived here my entire life, and I've never noticed how beautiful the sunset is.

"Magic hour," Max says, breaking the silence.

I'm in such awe of the amazing event unfurling in front of me that it takes me a moment to respond. When I do, it's somewhat unintelligently.


"Movie directors. They call this—" Max gestures at the sky above us, "—magic hour."

"Wow," I breathe.

We lay side by side quietly as the sun finishes its descent and the brilliant colors are slowly extinguished, leaving behind only a clear blue that gradually fades to black.

"Devon!" Maddy's voice wafts from my room. "Dinner's ready!"

I sit up, feeling as if I'm just waking from a dream. I crawl to the edge of the roof and carefully climb down the trellis. Max follows and we both stand on the balcony for a moment. I don't know exactly what to say, and frankly, I don't want to speak, afraid of breaking that sense of magic and beauty that now surrounds us.

Max seems to read that in my face, because he gives me a small smile and waves. I nod and smile back at him, then crawl back across the tree and to my balcony. I walk back into my room, shutting the doors behind me.

I'm quiet at dinner as Maddy tells Dad about the "new boy next door". After I load the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and kiss Zoe goodnight, I head back to my room for the night. Despite it being early, I'm feeling strangely tired.

I brush my teeth and wash my face, then change into my oversized t-shirt. Before I crawl into bed, I walk outside to get my last whiff of the cool night air. In the dim light provided by the moon, I see the outline of Max leaning against his balcony railing. I'm slightly shocked that he's still outside, and for a moment I'm self-conscious about the way that my t-shirt only reaches a quarter of the way down my thighs. It occurs to me that it's dark and he can't actually see anything, and I relax, letting out a little sigh.

He hears me and flashes one last smile, his teeth glowing white in the darkness.

"Goodnight, Devon."

I smile back at him.

"Goodnight, Max."

I retreat back inside, close my doors, turn off my lights, and climb into bed.

Author's Note: So what do you guys think? This story will include a lot of movie quotes, so be prepared for that :)

I think this will turn out a lot better than the Tales of Sadie Baker, because I actually have this all planned out, so I know what's going to happen, which is better than just making it up as I go along. By the way, for those people who are followers of TTOSB, I'm sorry it's taking so long to get the last chapter up, school has just been majorly hectic. I'm going to start writing it right now, and hopefully it'll be uploaded within a week or so (maybe).

Anyway, thanks for reading and please review, because I want to know your opinions on this new story!

P.S.: Any suggestions regarding the summary will be greatly appreciated :)