the First

a Second Encounter

Our eyes lock, and he smiles at me. He actually has the nerve to smile. A million questions explode into my head. Why did you leave? Why were you shot? How did you heal a bullet wound with sparkly sand?

Ms. Jackson emerges from behind the counter, our drinks on the tray in her hand.

"I'll be right with you!" she says, smiling at him as she walks by.

His voice fills the empty diner, "Thanks."

Luke makes a choking noise as his mom makes her way to us. She sets our drinks down. I can't break my gaze from his. He looks friendly, awed, and suspicious all at the same time. Is that even possible? I guess so, because here it is displayed in the most gorgeous emerald eyes I've ever seen. Rose snaps me out of my reverie.

"Are you ready to order?"

I tear my eyes away from his, and smile up at her, "Um, sure. We're both going to have a cinnamon roll, and could I get a plate of fruit, and a side of scrambled eggs?"

"Of course."

She scribbles down my order, and turns to Luke. I stare down at my menu, not daring to look up at the guy. I can feel his eyes on me.

"I'm going to do the Mexican breakfast burrito, and a side of French toast, please."

She writes down his order and smiles at us, "I'll have that out in a few minutes!"

She grabs our menus and walks away, I watch her go. I can still feel his eyes on me, but I decide to ignore him. She goes into the kitchen, probably to tell the chef our orders, and returns to greet the man. She has this weird look on her face, as if both of them are in on something.

"What can I do for you?"

"I'm hoping to get a loaf of pumpkin bread, actually. My mother loves this place and can't go a day without your bread."

Luke coughs again, I turn to see he's also watching the conversation. He looks excited.

Ms. Jackson smiles, "We have some fresh baked loaves in the back, I'll go check. Give me a minute!"

"Take your time." he responds, a charming grin on his face. I turn away just as he looks back at us. I can again feel his bright eyes on me. I take a sip of my tea and drum my fingers on the table. Luke looks like he's having a stroke. Ms. Jackson returns, with a loaf of pumpkin bread in hand.

"Here you go! That'll be five bucks."

He digs in his jeans for his wallet, and pulls out a twenty, with a piece of paper. He places both in the palm of her hand. She unfolds a note, reading the words, before she looks up at him and nods once. Her expression has sobered.

"Keep the change." he says. Grabbing the loaf of pumpkin bread, he sends one last glance to me and Luke, and exits the diner.

Luke shoots out of the booth and strides towards the door, throwing it open and following the man to his car. I watch through the window as Luke jogs to the man and starts talking at him. I wish I could hear what he's saying, but I can't make it out. The man looks annoyed, and Luke looks he's pleading with him. What is going on? The guy gets in his car, slams the door, and speeds off.

Luke comes back inside as cool as a cucumber, despite the looks he gets from the older couple. He slides back into the booth and resumes the silent treatment towards me.

"What was that?" I ask, trying to keep my voice quiet.

"Nothing of your concern." he responds, and looks away.

This is ridiculous! I'm about to raise my voice a little when Ms. Jackson returns with our cinnamon rolls.

"Here you go. The rest of your meal will be out soon."

I sigh and look away from him, "Thanks."

She flashes a grim smile and walks away. What did that note say? Luke tears into his cinnamon roll, I nibble on mine. I've kind of lost my appetite. But I polish it off, O'Brien's cinnamon rolls are amazing and hard to pass up. Luke's is long gone. At least in the midst of being bipolar he can eat like himself. I trace the patterns on the wooden table, and we sit in silence. Does Luke know that guy? He must, or else he wouldn't have walked up to him. Luke looks just as angry as he did before. I'm so lost right now. I wish he would talk to me! I gulp down the rest of my tea, and set my cup back onto the plate. It warms my throat as it goes down, providing a little bit of comfort. The older couple pays and exits, the bell announces their departure. Ms. Jackson enters just in time to wish them a nice day, and she deposits our food on the table. She picks up our cinnamon roll plates, my cup, and smiles at me.

"Can I get you anything else today?"

"I think we're good. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

She turns and walks away, and I dig in to my scrambled eggs. Luke munches down on his breakfast burrito, and before I know it he's moved on to his French toast. I finish my eggs and turn to the fruit, stabbing each piece with a vengeance and popping it into my mouth.

Stab.

Chew.

Swallow.

Stab.

Chew.

Swallow.

I flag down Ms. Jackson and she brings our check. Luke snatches it before I can even reach out, looks like he's paying for this one. He stuffs a few bills inside and stands.

"Ready?"

"Sure."

We walk to the front of the diner, where his mom is waiting.

"Have a good day, guys."

"You too!" I respond, a smile plastered on my face.

Luke opens the door and holds it for me.

"Thanks." I say.

This time, he says nothing. It looks like that encounter made his mood worse. I dig inside my purse for my keys, and I unlock the truck. Climbing inside, Luke follows suit and I start it up. I back out of the spot and pull onto the main road. I mentally prepare myself for another long drive in silence. Great. I cruise back the way we came, a little faster than I should be going. I glance at him, he's staring out the window again. What is going on? This is incredibly unusual behavior for him. I'm not going to say anything. I'm going to leave him alone. I need to focus on going into senior year with a smile, not focusing on Luke. If he wants to be weird then so be it, but he can't drag me down with him. I reset my posture and lift my head. With my promise to myself I feel a little better. I'm going to go home and do Knight's obstacle course, he always helps to improve my mood. I whip past the turn to my house, and cruise down the main street of our town. Luke shifts in his seat, he knows I'm taking him home. I'd rather not hang out with him today. Pulling into his driveway, I unlock the doors and sit back, I'm not going to say anything. We sit in silence for a second, and he speaks.

His voice sounds sad and apologetic, "It's not you that I'm mad at."

He gets out of the car and shuts the door before I even have a chance to respond. He yanks his front door open and steps inside without a backwards glance. I sit in stunned silence for a second before I lock the doors and pull out of his driveway.

The drive home is short, we only live ten minutes from his house, but it goes by even faster. I can't wrap my head around what could be going on with him. First it was staring out the windows, then he wouldn't let me see who he was texting, and then he runs right up to the guy who lay dying on the side of my house last night as if he knows him! Life has suddenly gotten incredibly weird. I'm not going to tell anyone what's going on yet, as much as I want to. No one would believe this! I pull into the driveway of the house and shut off my car, walking inside.

Mom is sitting in her office, typing away. The framed photo of her, Dad, and me sits next to her computer. My dad passed away two years ago. He was the CEO of Pierce Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation. That meant that whenever a reactor leaked or malfunctioned, he was there until it was fixed. Not because he had to, because it was his choice. That company was like his second child! He devoted most of his time to work, when he wasn't working he was spending time with us. Once, when he had to go in during a reactor malfunction, it exploded. Thankfully the reactors were small enough and well contained, so no radiation harmed anyone outside of the plant. Leave it to my dad to think of that. It killed him and a few others, and nothing like that has happened since. Apparently, they never found his body, so it's assumed he was blown to bits. So, Selene Pierce, my mother, took over his company, and that's how it has been since. Now, she only gets weekends off from her busy schedule, not that she takes them. I tap on her door and enter the room, wrapping my arms around her as she sits in her chair.

"What are your plans for the rest of the day?" she asks without looking up.

"I'm going to work with Knight for a while, then I'm going to go get my nails done for tomorrow."

She laughs, "Have fun. I'm going to continue my Sunday cleaning."

"Okay. Love you."

"Love you, too."

I walk out of her office and to the kitchen. Grabbing an apple out of the fridge, I close it and move out of the kitchen. Skipping down the stairs, I dart into my closet. I change out of my flip flops and into basic boots, and exit the basement. Knight sees me as soon as I emerge, greeting me with a whinny. I give him the apple as I walk by, tapping the code into the lock and sliding the barn door open. I walk into the tack room and grab a halter, a lunge rope, a short whip, and a pile of small treats that I slip into my pocket. I exit the barn and go to Knight, who has already finished his apple. I put on his halter, attach the lunge rope, and lead him out of the pasture. We pass the barn and enter the round pen, and I take up my position in the center. I gently tap him with my whip, sending him to the edge of the pen. I adjust the rope and shake my whip at him to get him moving. He breaks into a canter, going in circles around me. I love this exercise, it reinforces our bond together. After I'm satisfied with his work, I drop the rope and whip and walk to the edge of the round pen with my back to him. He stops cantering. I expect to hear him come up behind me, as usual, but he doesn't. I wait. This exercise is about letting the horse come up to you, not the other way around. Nothing. He's usually pretty good at this! He needs to be so we can compete in agility and those obstacle courses. This is our warm up before we do any course, he knows to follow me. Where is he? He's never done this before.

I grow more impatient by the second, I've been told I have a short temper. Finally, I snap. I whirl to see where the hell Knight is. He's all the way on the other side of the pen. And he's not alone.

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