Before We Burn

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My Kind of Girl

Wesley waited at the park bench. His eyes flickered in all directions to search for Oaklyn, but it seemed she hadn’t arrived.

He knew who she was as soon as he recognized her during the bus ride, but that wasn’t the motive behind wanting to get to know her.

He browsed through her photos on her social media, then zoomed in on one she had of her posing next to her brother.

Before he could tap on a link to send him to another profile, his attention drew to Oaklyn, who was stepping toward him.

He quickly shut off the screen and plopped his phone back into his pocket.

“I’m surprised you showed up,” Wesley shouted toward her.

Oaklyn tugged her backpack strap and awkwardly smiled once she reached him.

“Well, don’t spoil it. I can easily turn around,” Oaklyn teased, but her face stayed blank.

A corner of his mouth lifted, then he patted the spot next to him.

She glanced around nervously before she took a seat at the far end of the bench.

“Why are you talking to me?” she asked after a few moments of uneasy silence. “You seem to be just as closed off as I am.”

Wesley shrugged and leaned back against the bench. His black leather jacket stretched when he extended his arm along the planks behind her.

She quickly swiveled her head away when his scarred eye looked directly at her.

“Maybe that’s why I want to talk to you,” Wesley admitted. “We can help each other.”

Oaklyn took a deep breath out of disbelief.

She couldn’t imagine having anything in common with someone who was presumed to be bad news. There was no way he wanted to help her out of the kindness of his heart. That type of attitude didn’t exist in their part of town.

She wrinkled her brows and sarcastically nodded her head.

“I’m sorry to hear about your brother,” he added. “I know what it’s like to be the headline of the century.”

There it is, she thought.

She stood up from the bench with a huff. “I’m not a charity case, nor am I someone to be used to make yourself feel better.”

Before she could take another step away, a pair of guys appeared from the walkway.

Each of them looked like criminals that would wreak havoc over town.

Leather and denim jackets adorned their scrawny figures and jeans that appeared to have had a war with wolves hung loosely around their waistlines.

“I see the serial killer’s kid has a girlfriend,” one of them hollered.

Wesley stood up with his hands in both of his pockets. He expanded his chest and lifted his chin to seem larger in comparison.

“It’s the flamer’s sister,” the other spoke out.

She glanced at Wesley to suppress her watering eyes.

They were only trying to weaken them, but they both refused to show the damage they were causing.

“A match made in hell,” the main one laughed again.

His blond-dyed hair shined in the evening sunlight. Brown eyes were staring devilishly at Oaklyn as if he were working her out as a riddle.

Dimples showed on either cheek. If it hadn’t been for his terrible attitude, she would have imagined him to be one of the nicest people she’d meet.

“You know what they say about the crazy ones,” the second chimed once more.

His cheekbones were higher and more taunt than the other guy. His nose was thinner to its point. His smile appeared friendly, but the way his eyes crinkled at the corners made Oaklyn shiver.

He went to stroke her chin until Wesley stood in front of her and shoved his arm away.

“Leave the girl alone, Howie,” Wesley barked.

Howie widened his eyes mockingly and cackled with his friend.

Oaklyn wanted to run away immediately, but she was afraid of what would happen if she did.

The other circled her as if he was a predator admiring his prey, and she instinctively held on to Wesley’s jacket out of fear.

I can’t be here, she panicked. I cannot be here.

She was moments away from hyperventilating if they didn’t leave them alone.

“Look at you giving us orders,” the one who stood next to her mocked. “You’re not one of us anymore.”

Wesley nervously licked his lips. His shoulders tensed when he felt Oaklyn release his jacket.

Shit, Wesley worried.

“Then, turn away, Nick. Let bygones be bygones.”

Nick walked around Wesley again with his index finger in the air.

“You know that’s not how this works, Wes,” he smirked before he glanced between the two of them. “We’ll see you again.”

Their gazes lingered on Oaklyn a second longer than she would have liked before they walked past them.

She let out a breath of relief, then hurriedly moved away from him.

“Oaklyn, wait!” he shouted as he ran for her.

She spun and held out a hand to prevent him from coming closer.

“Whatever you’re into, leave me out of it. I already have enough problems as it is,” Oaklyn spat. “Leave me alone.”

She twirled on her heel to leave him behind her.

She hated to admit that Kyle was right.

Wesley was nothing but bad business, and she certainly didn’t need more newspaper clippings with her name on them because of him.

╚»★«╝╚»★«╝

Wesley tightly grasped the wooden handle of his paintbrush in his palm.

The strokes he preferred to be light and elegant came out harsh and dark. The face of his muse held a saddened tone with a shadowed background.

Groaning aloud, he flung the brush into a nook of his bedroom, the red paint spattered on the wooden floor and the wall.

He gawked emotionlessly at the vibrant smears before he glanced down at his arms.

He curled his hands into fists before he took a deep breath and released them.

“Hey,” he heard someone from his doorway call out to him, “time to go to work.”

His cousin tossed a green apron at him, and he snatched it from the air.

She eyed him as she leaned her shoulder against the door wall. Her red-dyed hair was up into a messy bun, and brown eyes enhanced with blue contacts.

Half of her tattoo sleeve revealed underneath the quarter-length sleeves of her black shirt. Skinny jeans with a wide hole on each knee were tight around her thin legs.

Wesley threw the apron toward his bed when he stood up from his wooden stool.

“They fired me,” he grumbled.

“And when were you going to tell me this?” her voice was raspy from the numerous cigarettes she smoked per day.

He shrugged and laid on his bed. He blinked at the ceiling while a heaviness encompassed his chest.

“I figured it didn’t matter. It’s just another reason why I’m a fuck up.”

His cousin sighed heavily and crossed her arms. “You’re not a fuck up, Wes. You’re just having a bad time right now.”

When he didn’t respond, she attempted again to make conversation.

“Why did they fire you this time?”

He refused to shift his eyes from his ceiling.

Instead, he examined the painting above him that he had created a few months before.

Blue-green eyes gazed back at him with a few strands of dark hair in front of long lashes. He had never finished the painting but had no desire to. He thought the eyes were perfect on their own.

“Same as before; didn’t want the Sumwoods Strangler’s kid destroying their family-friendly image,” he dramatically replied.

She didn’t respond.

The newest painting on his easel captured her interest. She stepped closer to it and couldn’t stifle a smile.

“She looks familiar,” she teased as she motioned to another canvas that rested against his wall.

“Don’t start, Minny,” he grumbled, but a grin crept on his face.

Minny raised her hands in surrender and laughed, “I’m just saying it’s apparent you’ve taken a liking to her.”

Wesley sighed while his smile fell, then positioned his arms behind his head.

“I can’t say the same for her. She seems to despise me.”

Minny grabbed a seat on his stool and crossed her arms again.

“Well, maybe you’re moving too fast. The girl’s been through a lot, too. Just like you live with your dad’s reputation, she lives with her brother’s,” she explained. “Give her time. Don’t do the impulsive thing you’re so prone to do.”

He lifted his head to scowl at her, then went back to ogling at the ceiling.

“Yeah, maybe.”

With the conversation dying down, Minny swatted her hands to her thighs before she stood up.

“You’ll figure it out. You always do,” Minny smiled.

He watched her leave from the corner of his eye.

He sighed to himself when he pulled out his phone, then stared at the picture of the two siblings again. His thumb stroked her smiling face and cherished the sparkle that had once brightened her eyes.

He desperately wished to see the light in her again.

They had never met face-to-face, but he knew her from afar. She was always quiet in high school, but social once she was with her friends.

She always lent a hand to someone who was struggling and would be the kind of person to sit next to someone who sat by themselves.

After her brother’s death, she closed in on herself.

Wesley connected to her on the level of once having a welcoming personality to loathing everyone around him. The rumors that went around both of them didn’t help much either.

He wanted to be the one to pay her the kind of attention she once gave to others.

“I just need to be patient,” he mumbled to himself. “I just wonder how long that’ll last.”


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