It's like the storm's trying to tell me something, you know? It's hollering and bellowing even louder than my dad did when I hammered that tent peg onto his foot instead of the ground, and I feel like if I just listen hard enough, I'll understand exactly what it's saying and then I can yell back at it to JUST SHUT UP!
Walking in the rain isn't supposed to be like this. So they tell me. It's supposed to be this whole uplifting thing, right? Get the ole creative juices flowing? I walk around for a while, contemplating my itty-bitty existence and the nature of the universe and all that blah, and then KABOOM! I run back home and declare to the world, "Yo. I am one with nature. I have reached nirvana. You have my permission to lick my icky muddy boots."
Yeah, that'll go over real well. Dad'll roll his eyes and limp out of the room, Grace won't even look up from the computer, Nicole will just keep drooling on the floor, and Mom'll say, "Matty, if you're really one with nature, then you're no different from this apple core—should I throw you in the trash, too?" And people think I'm sarcastic?
But good news! I'm not out here to reach nirvana. I'm just out here because I'm bored as heck and out of ideas and my wrist's too tired to draw anyway and it seemed like a good idea at the time. "The time" being before there was any actual wetness involved. Now that I'm soaked to the skin, I'll freely admit it was one of my suckier ideas. It's cold, it's wet, it's noisy, and the wind—
. . . . . . . . .
The wind that day was worse than anything I'd walked through before or since. Vicious. I couldn't think of another word for it. Didn't much want to, didn't much care. By that point in my life, I'm pretty sure I'd stopped caring about things like words. Grammar. Details. Trivia. Silly stuff. I remember wishing I cared about silly stuff, about what celebrities broke up or who died. But my brain didn't work that way anymore.
I kept my head down, shifting the backpack on my shoulders, praying it was as waterproof as the tags had claimed before I'd ripped them off, stuffed the bag under my sweatshirt, and smiled my way out of that badly managed department store a week ago.
Some people shoplift strictly for the thrill. I was never one of those people. I'd wished to be, though. Too many times to count.
Rain plastered my hair over my eyes. When I tossed my head to fling the tendrils off my face, I saw him.
. . . . . . . . .
Figures she'd see me right when I fall on my butt. One second, I'm fine, the next, whoosh! The wind comes in and she's standing there grinning down at me. Anybody else, and I'd be steaming mad, but come on, it's Addie McLaren, the most make-fun-able person on the planet—poor, fat, straight A's—who never gets made fun of because she'd just too darn cool. Not that it wasn't mortifying when kids figured out how well our names go together and "Matty and Addie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G" was all the rage in fifth grade. But that was five years ago. Now every other fourteen-year-old boy I know would die to be in that song with her. Pity it faded, huh?
She holds out a hand to pull me up. I take it and she yanks me to my feet.
"S'up, Matty?" Did I mention her 5-gajillion megawatt smile? With a dimple? Totally the reason she gets away with the stuff she says. If the power ever goes out on the Eastern Seaboard again, they should plug Addie into the mainframe and have her smile until they work out whatever the heck went wrong. "Little guys like you shouldn't be out in thunderstorms like this," she says, blinding me with those pearly whites. "Might get blown away. You need a fat person to anchor you."
Okay, it's not fair to say she's fat, really, but she's big. Chunky, you know? Round in the face and the body. Not that it's not a nice shape—She's drenched right now, and I can tell you, it's a nice shape. Just . . . large. "Not blown away, just blown down. Like so." And I plop down on the sidewalk again. I know, I'm shameless. But it's Addie! Everybody flirts with her like crazy; she probably doesn't even notice.
"I'm not helping you up again." Flashing smile. Dimple. Oh god.
I get myself up. "So, when did you get back from camp?"
"I never go to camp, Matty."
"What?" Of course she doesn't; they have no money, I knew that, I know that—Quick, cover it up—"You mean you've been home all summer and you've just been letting me go out of my mind with boredom? Some friend you are."
"Oh, 'cause I'm supposed to be a mind reader? When have you ever been home for the summer?"
"Yeah, well, Dad got fired and things are tight."
"Spare me the sob story."
She throws a look over her shoulder, and I really must have lost my mind from doing nothing but sketch for two months straight, because the next thing I blurt is: "Are you crying?"
Her head swings back around, eyebrows halfway up her forehead. "Hello?" She points at the sky. "Raining?"
"Right—I don't know what I—Never mind."
"No worries." Dimple again. I'm dying. Better come up with some neutral topic before I turn into a slobbering idiot.
"So what are you doing out here?" I ask, shouting over a thunderclap.
Addie smiles wider, but this time it's not the dimple that distracts me; it's the gleam in her eye, the evil one she always gets when she's about to say something only Addie can say without having to fear for her life.
Then she leans over and whispers, right in my ear, "I'm running away." She pulls back and keeps grinning at me like it's the most awesomely exciting thing ever, and then lightning flashes almost as bright as Addie's teeth and I'm grinning too, because honestly, what in the world is more exciting than getting out of this boring-as-heck neighborhood and this boring-as-heck summer?