Chapter 1-New Friends
Hunter (11 years old)
“Aunt Terri, why do I have to come and say hi to the new neighbors, and Uncle Marcus doesn’t have to?” I huff as I walk out the front door, holding it open for my aunt to follow.
“First, it is polite when someone new moves to town to welcome them, especially when they are your new neighbors. Second, your Uncle Marcus already introduced himself, now quit being such a baby and come along. Besides, I hear they have a child around your age. It will be a good chance for you to make a new friend this summer.”
I don’t need a new friend. I already have friends. Gavin and I plan to shoot some hoops and go swimming down at the lake with Chris, Kyle, and his friend Malakai. We don’t need a new friend. This kid is probably a nerd anyway.
Aunt Terri knocks on the door three times while holding the chocolate cake. I hope this doesn’t take forever. It’s really hot out today, and I want to go swimming. It takes forever for someone to finally open the door. I stretch my neck all the way up to look at the giant man standing there. Wow, this guy could play in the NBA, maybe he does?
“Hello, I’m Teresa McKay, your next-door neighbor, but you can call me Terri. This here is Hunter, my nephew. We thought we would come on over and welcome you all to the neighborhood and offer you a treat.”
Aunt Terri smiles brightly up at the giant and offers him the chocolate cake. He smiles down at her. At first, it looks kind of creepy, but then a small hand wraps around his big leg; when he looks down, his smile turns into one like Aunt Terri just gave. I try and look around the giant, but the kid is hiding pretty well. He probably looks like a freak or something, and that’s why he’s hiding behind his dad.
“It’s okay, sweet pea. These are our new neighbors coming to say hello,” the giant says.
Sweet pea? Who calls their son sweet pea? This is way worse than I thought.
“Hi,” the voice says while sticking her head out. Not a freak. Definitely not a freak or a boy, but a girl. Not just any girl, but an angel. Her hair looks so soft, like the blanket Aunt Terri has on the couch. Her eyes lock with mine and they open wider. Wow, they’re so blue. She really is pretty.
“Hunter, say hello.” Aunt Terri snaps me out of it.
“Hey. You want to come and play some ball with me?” What? I’m asking a girl to play ball?
She looks up at the giant, who is going to squish me for asking his sweet pea to play ball. “Can I, daddy?” Her voice is soft too.
“If you want to, I don’t see why not. Just make sure to stay near the house where I can see you,” the giant responds.
“I promise.” She smiles up at him, and I swear she really must be an angel. Her whole face lights up when she smiles.
She steps out from behind the giant’s leg and comes closer to me with her hand stretched out. “I’m Ashton.” Even her name is pretty. I take her hand and squeeze a little; it feels nice in mine.
“I’m Hunter.” When she hears my name, she gives me that bright smile, like the one she just gave her dad.
We make our way to the back of my uncle’s house, where he has a basketball net set up. I dribble a few times before taking a shot and nailing it.
“You’re really good. You must play often,” she says while watching.
“I’m okay. I play with my friends, uncle, and my dad mostly. One day, I’m gonna play for the high school basketball team and win the championship.”
“I’m sure you’ll be their captain.” She gives me that smile. I could watch her smile all day.
“Do you want to try?” I ask, offering the ball. She’s a girl and probably has never touched a ball in her life, but I don’t want her to leave just yet.
“Sure,” she answers quickly while holding up her hands for me to pass the ball. I bounce it in her direction and she catches it with ease. Wow. Cool. She dribbles a few times, getting closer to the net, and takes a shot; it hits the backboard and goes through. What?
“Wow! You nailed it.”
“Yeah, my daddy likes sports, especially basketball, so I play with him whenever he’s not at work.”
I think I’m going to marry this girl. We play ball, talk, and eat Aunt Terri’s famous lasagna for dinner. Before I know it, her daddy is calling out for her to go home.
“Thanks for letting me hang out with you today. I had a lot of fun,” she whispers as we stand outside her front door.
“It was nothing.”
She hesitates to open her door, and I really wish we could hang out all night. I notice her wringing her hands together while looking down at her beat-up runners. I figured I’m making her nervous by just standing here. I hear her take a deep breath before looking up at me. She really does have pretty blue eyes. They’re so big.
“I better go.” She’s moving towards her door when I snap out of it and reach for her hand.
“Do you wanna hang out tomorrow?” What am I doing? The guys are so going to make fun of me for this.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” she says, smiling from ear to ear. She really is pretty. “Goodnight, Ashton.”
“Goodnight, Hunter.” Wow, even the way she says my name pretty.
What? Oh, man. What am I saying?
I watch her go inside, but not before turning back to me and waving one last time. Ashton. No, angel. She’s definitely an angel.