1. Home Again
The highway’s oddly empty on my way to my hometown. It takes a glance in the side mirror of my Fat Boy for me to speed up. I grin at the roar of the engine and salute the dude in an old truck I’ve just left behind.
Pops will give me shit for riding so fast, but he ain’t a Saint himself. I can always tell him I was hungry. It won’t be a lie — I haven’t eaten since morning. Right on cue, my stomach grumbles, and I focus on the rolling acres of cornfields and the stormy gray sky instead.
If I’m lucky, I’ll have time to catch forty before going to The Temple. It’s just a clearing in the woods on the edge of the town, but when Mac gave it the nickname years back, it stuck.
I smile again, thinking about my childhood friend. The dude has no idea I’m back — nobody does. I want to see the look of surprise on those fuckers’ faces when I crash their little meeting.
One mile to go. The familiar scenery makes my stomach tighten. I visited Pops as often as I could, but it wasn’t the same.
Mom’s already there, in her new apartment. I wonder if she’s gonna have dinner with us. She and Dad are cool — there was no trash talking and no drama. They took a break from each other, and I wanted a break from my hometown.
If I’d known I’d miss it and the guys so much, I would’ve stayed and let Mom move across the country on her own. She was happy teaching there, but I hoped she’d get fed up with that hellhole and want to move back.
Fat Boy rolls into my neighborhood. I need to stretch my legs, and my ass is numb. No matter how many times I’ve ridden, I can’t get used to the seat. Mac would say I’m a pussy. I can’t wait to hug the living shit outta that fucker.
Our house sits farther down the street. Pops isn’t in the yard; he must be working in the garage. I unclip my helmet as soon as my feet are on the ground and rake my fingers through my unkempt dark hair. I should probably have it cut, but girls like pulling at it, and I love that shit way too much to deny myself the pleasure.
I rotate my shoulders as I climb the wooden steps of the porch. “Pops!” I yell, banging my fist on the front door.
It opens barely a second later, and my giant of an old man smacks me upside the head before wrapping me in his arms and slapping my back. “Welcome home, Son.”
“It’s good to be back.” I wink and give him a once-over. He’s just as strong, tall, and inked as he used to be, and his eyes twinkle in the same way. My dad’s in his forties, young enough to do whatever the hell he wants. My brother and I lucked out in the parents’ department. I wish all my friends could say the same.
Pops nods toward Fat Boy. “Bring your stuff in. I guess you’re hungry.”
“Hungry as fuck,” I complain and earn myself another smack from Axel O’Brien.
“I’m the only one who cusses here, got it? You, little fuckers, never learn. Take care of the bike and haul your ass to the kitchen. I’m starving, too.”
“Has her book club meeting. She’ll stop by tomorrow. You’d better not be hungover.”
“No promises.” I shrug and make my way out of the house. It takes me next to nothing to grab my overstuffed saddlebag and leave Fat Boy in the garage. I go back in and trudge up the stairs to my old bedroom.
Pops hasn’t touched it. Posters of my favorite bands still hang on the walls. I’ll add a poster of Jimmy, my big brother, the superstar.
My stuff lands on the carpet — unpacking will have to wait. If my dad’s hungry, his patience is nonexistent.
I take off my leathers and toss them onto the bed. Then, I unzip the bag and fish out a clean pair of jeans and a plain black tee.
I’m about to get dressed when I register movement in one of the windows of the house next to ours. It’d been vacant for years because the owners couldn’t find anyone who’d rent it. Mac used to say the shit was haunted, while I thought it needed too many repairs.
As I shove my arms in the sleeves of the T-shirt, I take a mental note to ask Pops about our new neighbors. It’d better be a hot chick. I’d have lots of fun with that.