Knocked Up by Brother's Best Friend(2)

By: Amy Brent

I cast a dirty look behind me at the bus, the effect lessened somewhat as the thick cloud of smog it belched out made me choke and splutter. I threw a middle finger up as the vehicle disappeared around a corner, watching it for as long as I could before I knew I couldn’t stall anymore.

Despite my best intentions, my eyes traced the familiar buildings of Main Street. There was Doctor Wiley’s office, who’d given me a cast when I had broken my arm falling out of a tree when I was twelve. I’d been so worried Jonah would be mad at me, but he hadn’t said a word, only waited till I was all patched up and then took me across the street to Rosie’s for ice cream.

Coral Springs wasn’t a particularly small town but it was mostly rural, with farmland and some industrial areas spread out with miles in between. It was small enough that most people knew each other. Everybody knew everybody else’s business. I hated it.

“Home, sweet home.”

The grocery store, the antique mall, everything looked exactly the same as the day I left three years ago. It hurt, to be back now. More than I ever could have imagined. Well, that’s because you never imagined crawling back to this shithole town as a failure. I forced myself not to cringe at the unwelcome reminder.

Three years ago, I had left Coral Springs without a backward glance. I had gotten accepted into the business program at the University of Iowa, and I couldn't wait to get out of this town. Away from these people. I had dreamed of graduating, starting my own business, and coming back in a few years, successful. I was going to show them all.

Yeah, your plan really worked out for you, Quinn. Except you forgot the part where you’re a perpetual fuck-up. Remember the lemonade stand? The carnival? The winter ball–.

I gave a violent shake of my head, wishing I could banish the thoughts but they were there, relentless, crouched in the back of my mind. Just waiting.

My gaze landed on the library, the red brick building still austere despite the vines crawling over the front and the spots where the cement stairs had begun to crumble. Lily was probably there right now. Lost amongst her favorite type of people. Fictional ones.

“I should go. I should walk over there and talk to Lily. At least let her know I’m back,” I muttered the words under my breath but my feet didn’t move.

Lily Ballis was my best friend. We had grown up together in Coral Springs, had been basically inseparable all through our middle school and teenage years.

But I already knew exactly how it would play out. I'd tell her what had happened. That I had drank myself through my junior year of college, had flunked out of almost all my classes and then I'd been caught with weed in my room. The University had a zero-tolerance policy. They'd barely let me pack my stuff before kicking me off the campus.

I would tell Lily all this, and she would nod sympathetically, her big blue eyes wide with understanding and kindness. And then she’d hug me and tell me that I was back where I was meant to be. That everything happened for a reason.

Fuck that, I thought angrily. I’m not supposed to be here. I glared at the town for good measure, turning resolutely in the opposite direction as I stomped down the sidewalk.

What about Jonah? That damned voice was back, whispering in my head but this time I couldn’t quiet it.

Jonah. My big brother. My overprotective, misguided, and judgmental big brother. No, I wasn’t ready to face him either. He would be pissed at me for fucking up such a great opportunity. I could deal with his anger. It had been directed at me plenty of times over the years, but what I couldn’t stand was the other thing. The disappointment.

I picked up my pace, distracted as I rushed forward, trying to outpace my own thoughts. Lily would be happy to have me back but Jonah was going to kill me for sure this time. There was no way around it. I was dead–.

“Oof!” The breath left my lungs in a rush as I ran into what felt like a brick wall that had suddenly materialized in front of me. My arms wind milled as I backpedaled, trying to keep my balance and then the brick wall was moving forward, steadying me with hands that felt suspiciously skin-like. And then it was talking, low and gravelly.

“Hey, there. Are you alright, sunshine?”

A small shudder ran through me as the words registered. It really wasn’t fair that a brick wall should have a voice like that. Like honey and whiskey and forbidden things all wrapped up together.

“What the hell? Are you trying to kill somebody?! You just came out of nowhere!” I said breathlessly, more embarrassed than angry, and it wasn’t just from the collision.

“Actually, I just came out of Lucky’s.”

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