I napped all the way until the next morning, it was barely light out when I woke up. I looked over to Rayla and she was sound asleep. I slowly zip open the tent and leave, closing it behind me. I walk over to the wall and climb the ladder, the horde was long gone by now.
“Morning,” a voice says from close by, making me jump slightly.
“Jesu- you scared the shit out of me,” I say laughing softly in relief, realizing it’s only Matt
“Sorry didn’t mean to, what are you doing up so early anyway?” He questions standing up walking towards me.
“I went to bed at like lunchtime because I was so exhausted, I got up early in return,” I say leaning against the edge of the wall.
“Oh right, you and Aaron stayed out all night. So what are you guys, are you guys together?” he asks curiously.
“No, we aren’t, we’re just friends,” I reply.
“Well, good, because if you guys were anything else I’d feel bad for saying that you are really cute and I want to get to know you a little more,” He says suddenly moving closer to me.
“You know, I’m not a girl who can easily be wooed by ‘smooth’ pick-up lines,” I say moving away.
“Oh, so you think I’m smooth?” He comments smirking, “Care to elaborate?”
“No, I’m good,” I answer, getting slightly defensive and annoyed.
“Hey so, I’m inviting some of the other kids to my tent to play truth or dare and some spin the bottle. Why don’t you and your friend Rayla join us?” He offers.
“Sure, why not,” I say turning to go down the ladder, he stops me with his hand.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re cute when you get annoyed?” He says smirking.
“Yes, now move. You are crossing a line and I can and will beat your ass if you go any further,” I say giving him a death stare, causing him to move his hand.
Matt seemed a lot less horny when he and I first met, but now that Aaron told me that Matt is a play-boy, I definitely see it. Once I climb down the ladder, Major and I walk towards the fire and sit down next to it, “Morning,” Aaron says sitting down next to me, yawning slightly.
“Morning, and wow, you bring a whole new meaning to bedhead,” I say, brushing my hand through his hair.
“Gee, thanks,” He says with a classic morning scowl on his face.
“You sure seem to be in a good mood,” I say, chuckling slightly.
“Yeah, well my dad snores, so I was awake for most of the night,” He says, yawning.
“Lucky me, no one in my family ever snored,” I say, laughing.
“Yeah, lucky you,” He says laughing along with me, “So you sure went to bed early, I mean you turned in at lunchtime, please tell me that isn’t your normal time to fall asleep?” He says, teasing.
“No, I was just tired from the night before,” I say, punching him lightly in the arm.
“Did my lap not sufficient enough as a pillow?” He says trying to sound offended.
“No, it wasn’t that, I guess I just haven’t known a night where Rayla wasn’t next to me. My family adopted her when she and I were both 12. I mean it sounds stupid but I consider her my Safety blanket,” I say looking down at my lap in slight embarrassment.
“It doesn’t sound stupid,” He comments.
“Yeah, sure it doesn’t,” I say sarcastically.
“Hey, I’m serious, My mom died when I was 10 and when she died my sister was my security blanket,” He replies reassuringly, rubbing his hand on my back.
“Okay, okay,” I comment, “Can I tell you something?”
“Yeah,” He answers removing his hand from my back and looking over at me.
“You can’t tell anyone, especially your dad,” I add.
“I promise,” He says holding his pinky out and we link pinkies.
“Okay, so when your dad asked if Rayla and I had killed anyone, Rayla told him that I killed 1 and I added that if I didn’t I would be dead. That isn’t entirely true, it wasn’t out of self-defense but more out of premeditated self-defense,” I say, as my palms get sweaty and I get more nervous.
“Go on,” he comments.
“Well, he was my cousin Katie’s dad, who you don’t know about yet, but anyway, he was an abusive father, he was always angry and would always abuse her. One day when she and I were going to her house after school, he came walking out of the garage and dragged Katie by the arm and started blaming her for something completely out of the blue. I tried to stop him but I just-” I try to explain, beginning to cry.
“Hey, it’s okay, you don’t have to explain all of it if you don’t want to,” He says hugging me tightly, tucking my head under his chin.
“No, I need to finish,” I say, wrapping my arms around him, “That was what started my anger. A day later, I pretended to be sick so I could miss school, and I made my way to Katie’s house and I broke in with a knife in my hand and I killed him right then and there. I didn’t get caught, well actually, I probably would have but about a month after it happened all hell broke loose.”
“Amara, I don’t like seeing you upset, you didn’t need to tell me this,” He says rubbing his hand on my back.
“I know, I just needed to get it off of my chest,” I say, shutting my eyes in relaxation.
“What’s going on here,” Huner asks, walking up to us
I immediately release my grip from Aaron and move away, “Nothing, just a little, umm, venting” I say hesitantly.
“Well, I’m going to go and tack up Milo and Bandit,” Aaron says standing up and walking away.
“Not so fast,” Hunter hollers after him, making Aaron stop in his tracks, turning around.
“Now that the chaos from yesterday is dealt with, you two need to explain why you guys didn’t come back the night before,” He demands, gesturing for Aaron to take a seat next to me.
“I wanted to be alone, so I went for a walk outside, I ended up getting farther than I planned, and then apparently Aaron followed me and he commented that it was too dark to be able to get back in time and I agreed with him, so we spent the night in a small shed,” I explain, getting slightly red from embarrassment.
Hunter stared for a second, looking back and forth between Aaron and me, “Well it’s not that I don’t trust you guys, but I have a few concerns about the scenario. Aaron, please tell me you told her about the other group?”
“Yes, I did,” He answers.
“Okay and just so we’re clear and I have your word, nothing happened between you two right?” He questions, his eyes widen nervously.
“Correct, nothing happened,” I reply.
“Good, now on other matters, I know you 2 are going on a ride, I want you back before lunch, so you probably have about 4 hours, so get going,” Hunter comments, standing up and walking away.
“Are you bringing Major?” Aaron asks, looking back at him, as he sniffs in our direction.
“No, I don’t want Bandit to spook at him,” I reply, walking over to Major.
“Not to sound like a dick, but good,” He says, walking up behind me, causing Major to growl, making Aaron stop in his tracks, “Plus it’s obvious that he doesn’t like me.”
“Major,” I say snapping at him, putting my face close to his, holding his snout, “I know you won’t growl at me, so don’t growl at him,” I say staring him in the eyes. He becomes silent, sitting down, letting out a huff, “I’ll be right back, I’m going to put him in the tent.”
“Sounds good, I’ll tack up the boys,” Aaron replies, walking back towards the pen.
“Okay, be back in about 2 minutes, I’m gonna do one other thing,” I say walking with Major back to the tent.
I walk back to the tent, zipping it open. I let Major walk in and zip it shut once more. I pull out a scuffed up and stained photo of Katie and me during one of her birthdays. Tears begin to form in my eyes, I quickly wipe them away before grabbing my bag and slinging it over my shoulders, “Major, stay in here, you’ll be fine.” he lets out a soft whine before laying down on my spot. “Good boy,” I say smiling softly, rubbing his head and giving him a kiss.
I open my tent and see that Bandit is rearing up and freaking out as Aaron is holding his reins.
“Aaron!” I shout running up to them. As soon as I get in Bandit’s sight, he calms down, “Are you okay?”
He catches his breath, “Yeah I’m fine,” he says looking over at me, “That’s the quickest he’s ever calmed down from an episode though, which means he really does have a strong liking to you,” He says handing me the reins.
“Eh, I think it’s just a coincidence,” I say hesitantly stroking his neck.
“You know, you’re a badass until it comes to this guy,” Aaron says jokingly.
“Well, I’ve handled bullies and assholes before but none have been 1200lbs,” I say laughing softly, making eye-contact with Aaron, blushing slightly.
“Well, ready to get going?” Aaron asks, walking over to Milo, grabbing his reins from the fence.
“Yeah sure,” I reply, putting the reins over Bandit’s head.
“Need a leg up?” Aaron asks.
“Yes please, I answer, moving to Bandit’s left side.
Aaron comes up behind me, locking his hands together and letting me use his hands as a step, then lifting me up, allowing me to swing my leg over Bandit’s back, sitting down in the saddle.
“Good?” He asks, putting a hand on my leg.
I freeze for a second, looking at his hand. “Uh, Yeah,” I answer, shaking my head slightly.
“Alright, let’s do it then,” He says, swinging himself up and onto Milo’s back.
A guy opens the gate for us and as we make our way towards it, I see Matt at the top of the wall, sitting on the edge, watching us as we leave. I continue making eye-contact with him, and right before we pass the gate, he winks at me, causing me to lose eye-contact with my face turning pale.