"Holy shit, kid! Watch where you point that thing!"
I turned around and laughed at the sight of a dripping wet Leon, who had been carrying a bag of ice up the driveway.
"Sorry, bro, didn't see ya' there." I turned the hose back on Dom's car, giggling because the rest of the team picked that moment to come outside, and they laughed too as they took seats around the picnic table to enjoy the show.
I'd made the mistake of calling Dom's car a "dirty bucket of bolts" earlier, and he'd said that if I was so offended by the dirt, I should do something about it. I knew he was expecting me to fight him, or whine about doing shitwork, so I surprised him by grabbing the cleaning stuff and heading out - which is why I had a hose running in the driveway when Leon drove up with BBQ supplies.
"Aw, so ya' think that's funny, do ya?"
I snickered because Leon sounded so 'grr' when he growled like that, all low and, well, growl-y. "Uh huh," I answered, real casual.
That got me an ice cube down the back of my shirt, and I screeched.
He laughed and threw the bag of ice at Vince as he walked past me. Vince grabbed it easily and started dumping it into the cooler. No one ever had warm beer around here.
In the driveway, the battle was on, me twisting the hose on it's hardest setting and chasing Leon around the car, once or twice finding myself on the run because I'd find myself at the end of the hose and he'd get his hand on some sponges. He was wiry, sure, but the man had an arm on him. Those squishy fuckers stung like shit. And did he have aim? Shit. We ever play baseball, I'm on his team.
I got him back, though. As soon as he ran out of ammo, I made a point of getting him right in the face.
"Still think it's funny?"
I had to catch my breath before I could answer, I was laughing so hard. Hands on knees, I choked out, "Fuckin' laugh-riot, Leon. Should take that show on the road."
"Then you're gonna find this fuckin' hilarious," he drawled from behind me, and I spun around in surprise. He must've slid over the hood or something. I barely had time to stumble backwards before he dumpted a bucket of soapy water over my head. Cold soapy water.
I fell back on my butt, laughing my head off and teeth chattering because I was soaked from head to toe.
Suddenly, though, no one else was laughing. I looked up to see them staring at Leon, who was staring down at me, looking as pale as I'd ever seen him.
I looked down, wondering what was wrong. Sure, I was wearing a white tank top, but I had a shorter blue one overtop. It wasn't even close to indecent, even soaking wet. Compared to Letty, I was practically dressed for church.
I froze when I saw it. I'd worn low-slung pants and the white tank was the long one that day. So the thick, bumpy dark scar tissue on my belly was clearly visible through the thin, wet material - a marking too perfect, too detailed, to be accidental, although it was a little blurry around the edges because I'd been struggling when they when they put it on me.
"Shit," Leon breathed, and I looked up. He looked almost green now, and his voice shook. He'd never brought up what he'd thought he'd seen that night I came here, but he probably hadn't expected this.
I felt my face go blank. Like in slow motion, I looked over to where everyone else was sitting. They couldn't see what Leon could, I knew, but they could see his face, and they knew something was wrong.
My eyes focused on Letty for a minute. She was the only one looking at me instead of Leon, and she looked so serious that I knew she knew exactly what Leon was seeing.
She must've been the one who dressed me that day, I thought, feeling a little crazy.
I looked back to where Leon was standing near me, looming over me. Somehow he'd drifted closer, hands twitching, like he wanted to do something but didn't know what.
I got to my feet, slowly, pretending I didn't see him holding out his hand to help me. Casually, like it was no big deal, I hitched my pants a little higher up on my hips and pulled my shirt away from my skin, so it became less see-through.
"How'd you get that scar?" he asked suddenly.
"That would be a brand," I said evenly, like my heart wasn't pounding so loud I could barely hear anything else. "And if you'll excuse me," I added, sounding oddly formal even to my own ears, "I think I'll go change into something dry."
No one stopped me when I headed back into the house, even though I must have left a trail of water and mud all the way to my room. Once there, I stripped and pulled out my thickest sweater and track pants, because despite the heat I felt cold, so cold it felt like I'd never be warm again.
I didn't cry. But I didn't come out of my room for the rest of the weekend either.
I think someone checked on me, though. At some point, I woke up from a dream I decided not to remember and found a tray with some pizza and pop on it. Not Mia, then. She never gave me junk food if she was serving. And not Letty; she would've gotten Mia to do it.
I wondered which of the guys it was.
It didn't matter. Not much seemed to, right then. I was still feeling blank.
I wondered how long it would be before I felt anything else. And I couldn't decide if I wanted to.
Next: Facing the Future